Saturday, May 30, 2009


("I Remember Mama" by Xavier Viramontes)

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) are fighting back against the Right Wing racist, sexist smear campaign which is designed to permanently tarnish the reputation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. In addition to statements in every venue they can reach, they've set up an online petition to demand leaders of the Republican Party stop these hate-based attacks. I'm going to copy in below the e-mail I received from them. The links embedded in it will take you to their website which has the same information as the e-mail plus a message form for you to complete.

I'm thrilled to live in a city that is approximately 30% Latino/a and a GREAT place to be as a result. This crap has to stop.

The nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court was an historic and proud moment for Latinos and the country as a whole. But her ethnicity has proven too much of a temptation for the voices of hate and extremism, who instead of looking at her judicial record have launched a vocal rampage that has reached new heights of absurdity.

Take action to put a stop to it.

Rush Limbaugh, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and others are claiming that Sotomayor is a "reverse racist" because she believes that more judges with diverse backgrounds and experiences would be a good thing for the judicial system. Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies (the "think tank" of Tanton's web of anti-immigrant extremist groups) and his pals at the National Review online are just beside themselves that Judge Sotomayor had the temerity to pronounce her own name correctly. They basically said that if she was a real American, she would butcher it. In an article that appeared in The Hill newspaper, Republican insiders are quoted as being "concerned" that Sotomayor's avowed love of arroz con gandules and other Puerto Rican delicacies will cloud her judicial decision-making.

This one, however, takes the cake:

Former Congressman, failed presidential candidate, and anti-immigrant extremist Tom Tancredo, unable to provide a shred of evidence for his assertion that Judge Sotomayor is a "racist," went off the deep end on CNN, saying Sotomayor belongs to "the Latino KKK without the hoods and nooses."

That's what Tancredo called NCLR-a 40-year-old, national Latino civil rights organization that works with community organizations all over the country to help Latino families achieve the American Dream. NCLR has been recognized by members of Congress and the media, has hosted presidents of both political parties, and works hand in hand with other national civil rights organizations in a bipartisan way to
improve the lives of all Americans.

Act now to stop this nonsense.

Raising questions and concerns about Judge Sotomayor's 17-year record on the bench is legitimate. Resorting tooutdated stereotypes, defamation of character, and outright falsehoods is not.

Please join us and send a message to Chairman Michael Steele of the RNC, House Minority Leader John Boehner, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asking them to denounce these statements and restore the nomination process for Judge Sotomayor to a more appropriate and civil discourse.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Friday, May 29, 2009


Arches National Monument
Note to readers of Ginny Bates: The final post of this draft of the novel (and I'm not sure I'll post future drafts) will be on June 6th, which so happens to be Myra and Ginny's anniversary.

If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

April 2020

Monday morning, Myra called to Ginny from the doorway of the storage room "Ginny, what are you going to do with all these bottles you've been saving? They're piling up in here." Whenever she bought glass bottles of soda from Mexico, or unusual drinks from the U.S., Ginny scrubbed out the bottles and saved them from regular recycling.

"I had the notion of making a bottle tree out front, but I think the snooty neighbors might complain" said Ginny. "Then I had an other idea -- well, Kip told me about it. If you bury them upside down, so the bottom half is sticking up about three inches from the ground, they make a gorgeous edging for a flower bed."

Myra looked at the array of colors and shapes, and said "You're right, that would be amazing."

"It's a bright clear day, we could do it this afternoon instead of Dance Class. They'll get as much exercise if we work 'em hard” said Ginny.

"Where are you going to put it?"

"By the whaleshark." Ginny came into view from the other room, looking at her with smudgy eyes. "I want to plant it with Chris's black-eyed susans."

"And Joe Pye weed, she said" remembered Myra.

"In the center, I'm going to try camas root" said Ginny. Myra felt ache flood through her. Ginny came to hug her. Myra whispered "I don't think I want to be immortal, after all. Not if eventually the names of those I'm having to live without outnumber the ones still around."

"We'd have to all be immortal" said Ginny. "But that would mean no room for new babies."

After lunch, Myra and Ginny carried baskets of bottles outside. Ginny spread a tarp that she piled with compost and a few bags of potting soil. Myra lined the children's gardening gloves and mini-sized tools on the bench by the pond, along with baskets. Blackberries and rhubarb had come in. She wanted to set at least a couple of kids to picking, with the promise of a pie in the offing.

By mid afternoon, they were all outside. A foot-deep hole had been excavated for the bed. Ginny was on the ground next to it, letting Lucia select which bottle went into the border next. For the corners, they were using square green olive oil bottles. Myra said “Make sure it's only the ones from Italy, I don't want another accusing look from Frances.”

Mimi and David had begun mixing the soils piled on the tarp, but gotten distracted into creating a town with castles and roads. David dashed into the house to grab some of their Tonka toys. Leah and Charlie were with Myra, picking blackberries. Charlie kept trying to eat red ones, spitting them out each time with an identical grimace. A magpie in the pear tree was watching them closely; Myra wondered if it begrudged them the berries or wanted to swoop down and devour Charlie's pre-masticated leavings.

By the time Allie and Edwina came to pick up the children for date night, Myra was sore from bending and her forearms itched. Ginny said “I wonder if Jane and Gillam are going out. If they are, let's go use the hot tub.”

Nobody answered the house line and the windows were dark. Myra put on a robe and followed Ginny to the tub, which wasn't quite warm enough at first but it was still a pleasure to sink down into the water.

“Once the little ones don't care about our playscape any more, we should put a sauna in that part of our yard” she said to Ginny. She watched Ginny's breasts bobbing at the surface of the water, then looked away.

“Mmm. Listen, Passover begins Thursday after this. I talked with Sima about it, and she's asked that we not have a family seder. She says she'd rather go to one at the Temple or even the Quaker thing” said Ginny.

“Yeah. Sometimes that hole around the table is too much to face” said Myra.

“Plus it was a special time for her and Susan last year” said Ginny.

“Are they in communication at all, Sima and Susan?” asked Myra.

“Sima writes her intermittently, and she told her about Annie. That got a reply. She said Susan made a point of telling her she had a new girlfriend and gotten together with her before Sima and Annie. Sima said she could hear the 'So THERE' in the email.”

“Since Sima and Annie are spending nights together now, are we to presume they've actually become, you know, lovers?”

Ginny rolled her eyes at Myra. “With Sima's sex drive? Of fucking course, Myra. I mean, how she and Chris originally began, it was all about the fireworks. And Susan was approaching menopause, with that state some women have of kinda going into a brief heat around that time. Sima told me Annie has quote stamina unquote.”

Myra stuck her fingers in her ears and began saying “LALALALA” in a loud voice. When she saw Ginny laughing, she stopped.

Ginny said “I used to fantasize about what it would be like to live on Skene, how you wrote about it in your books, where women had periods only three or four times a year but it was more like estrous – they were consumed by sexual craving for a week. And there were no prohibitions about getting pregnant or taking time off to indulge yourself erotically, because everybody understood what it was like when the craving hit. And so many of the partnerships were between three or more women. That ocean-dominated world didn't offer much in the way of luxury, but carnally, they made the most of it.”

“You fantasized about it?” said Myra. “Like, what if we had a third person in our relationship, you mean? Was it Emma Goldman or Toshi Reagon in bed with us?”

Ginny cackled. “Your memory can be freaky, Myra. No, I was imagining being the characters in your books. Specifically Bux, since she was the one based on me.”

And Yerush, a little thought Myra but did not dare say. Yerush was a character Myra loved. However, she had upset a lot of people with her trouble-making in the book.

Ginny was facing the dining room glass wall, and now she said “Uh-oh. The foyer light just came on. They must be home.”

“Shall we slip on our robes and steal quietly away?” whispered Myra.

“Wait. No, they're heading directly for their bedroom.” Ginny grinned at Myra.

“Uh...Then I still don't feel comfortable staying here.” She lifted herself over the edge. On the walk home, Ginny said “I imagine Allie and Edwina will stop by when they drop off the kids at Jane and Gillam's later. Don't let me forget to give them that flat of mizuna starts I have for their greens table.”

“I'm hungry now” said Myra.

“We have leftover ceviche from lunch” said Ginny, heading for the kitchen.

“I don't really like ceviche” said Myra. “Heresy, I know. I think I'll reheat the baked squash, maybe with some steamed broccoli.”

“Myra – that session you have with Nancy tomorrow, you want to make that a couples' session?” asked Ginny.

Myra thought about it. “No. I'm doing hard work, I think it's better if I stay solo this time.”

“Okay. Oh, I forgot. Sima said we need to have a talk about Annie coming here to sleep over with her.”

“Hell, Ginny, the last thing I want to do is tell Sima who she can sleep with, especially when it's Annie -- “ began Myra.

“No, not that” interrupted Ginny. “She's not asking our permission. It's that Annie wants to bring Omar.”

“Oh.” Omar was Annie's middle-aged dog, a poodle mix in a color Myra would call brown and Ginny would call whiskey. He went with Annie to her studio but otherwise tended to stay home because he simply wasn't socially inclined. The only creature he had ever bonded with was Annie.

“Omar has never made a real impression on me” said Myra. “The question is, how does he handle other animals? And children?”

“Sima said he's gone with Annie to Margie's garage a few times and utterly ignored Moon and Gidg, despite Gidg growling at him and trying to throw her weight around. She said there's wild cats that hang round Annie's old studio, and he's never looked their way, either. I told Sima we'll have to give it a trial run. Myra, why are you holding your shoulders up around your ears like that?”

“My neck hurts. I picked all the high berries and leaning back that much, I got a strain” said Myra.

“Here, let me rub it” said Ginny. Myra came to stand in front of her and closed her eyes against the power of Ginny's thumbs digging into her trapezius.

“Best hands ever” she murmured out loud before remembering it was a comment she used to say after Ginny made love to her. She felt the energy in Ginny's hands change. She couldn't tell if it was caution or hunger. Probably both.

After a few minutes, Ginny said “That better?” and pulled away.

“Yes, much. Thank you, girlfriend.” Again, Myra wished she hadn't used the word. To cover her awkwardness, she said “How goes the planting chart for the cabin? You and Sima ready to order plants yet?”

“We have a list, but first we're going to call nurseries in the Colville area and see what they have. It's all native and heirloom species, we may have to use several sources to find them. She and Margie are talking about going up in May, to put in the yard and also hike to the source of Kash-Kash Creek together. Do you want to go?”

Myra still had her eyes closed. “For the yard work, yes. I'm not sure about the hike, depends on how long and arduous it is.” She looked at Ginny. “I'm not ready to sleep in the cabin yet, though. Let's get a motel room.”

“Are you ever going to be comfortable staying in the cabin again?” asked Ginny.

“Yes. Just not yet.” Myra thought That's all I seem to say to you.

At shabbos dinner the following Friday, Margie announced "Next weekend is my and Franny's anniversary. We're going to the coast for two days. You can make us a cake or whatever the weekend after."

"How many years is this?" asked Jane, overlapping Lucia's question of "What's a annibursary?"

Myra waited for Margie to answer "Ten, the big 1-0" before saying to Lucia "It's the day when something special happened, that isn't a birthday. Like me and Ginny's anniversary is June 6th because that's the day we first told each other that we wanted to be more than friends."

"And you asked her if she wanted to have grandchildren, and she said yes, and then you did" elaborated David.

Ginny began laughing. "The condensed David-centric version, I guess that would be."

"I think I remember that day" said Charlie, furrowing his brow. "We lit sparklers?"

"You weren't born yet" reminded Gillam. "Neither was I, so we couldn't have been there."

"Who was there, then?" asked Charlie.

"Just me and Gramma" said Ginny, her expression reminiscent.

"Although as soon as I got home, I called Allie to tell her about it" said Myra.

"And the next morning, she told me and Chris" added Sima. Leah had come to sit in Myra's lap a little possessively. She now spread her fingers lightly on Myra's wrist and said "But you didn't get married, did you?"

"We're more than married" said Ginny. She turned to Margie "Is your anniversary the day you met or the day you told each other how you felt or, well, something else?"

"We celebrate the day we said the words, which is also when we -- did something else" said Margie, determined not to blush.

"What else -- " began Mimi, right on cue. Myra interrupted with "You know, there's a very old poem that I always associate with me and Ginny's beginning."

"A poem you wrote?" asked Leah.

Myra chuckled. "I wish." She covered Leah's hand with her own but kept her gaze locked on Ginny as she recited

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.

With a mischievous lilt, Mimi said "Okay, you're growing old." Gillam goosed her.

Ginny said to Myra "You still pronounce Jenny and Ginny exactly the same." Her eyes were soft.

After a minute, Gillam said "All right, you horndogs, return to family dinner participation, if you please." Lucia laughed gaily and Myra grinned around the table, but she kept her foot pressed against Ginny's ankle out of sight.

Allie and Edwina had been out with other friends before coming to dinner, and they had arrived in dressy clothes. Allie was wearing a jet black men's shirt with a fine silver thread in it, a black silk jacket, and a silver tie with small black emblems that turned out, on close inspection, to be fountain pen spilling ink – a tie Edwina had found for her. Edwina had decided to straighten her hair on her last visit to her salon, and it now felt in a stiff silver wave over half her face. She had on a silver rayon shirt with black trim.

Allie had removed her jacket to eat, but now the tie was threatening to spill into her gravy. She loosened it and hung it over the back of her chair. She removed her cufflinks as well and rolled up her shirtsleeves. Charlie watched her with interest, then asked “Aunt Allie, are you a boy or a girl?”

Allie grinned but answered in a serious tone “Depends on how I be feelin' that day. I decide when I get dressed that morning.”

“You can do that?” asked Charlie incredulously.

“Sure. Why not? You can, too. And you can call me either Aunt Allie or Uncle Al, depending on how you feel about me that day” said Allie.

“You can call me Betty” volunteered Edwina. The adults laughed but Charlie looked bewildered.

That night, Sima left with Annie to go to her house. Myra and Ginny puttered around the kitchen. Ginny washed their potluck dishes while Myra put white beans on to soak overnight.

"Are you going to write?" asked Ginny.

"I'm pretty tired. And distracted" said Myra. Ginny waited. "I've been thinking about what Margie said. Not tonight, but back when she said our version of how we got together was a self-serving fairy tale."

"Oh god, don't tell me she was right after all" said Ginny.

"How about if I tell you but not her?" said Myra. They laughed together. Myra slid her arm through Ginny's and walked her to the elevator. When the doors shut, Myra said "The way it's been in my head, I was running around for years being compulsive about sex, but always in the context of reacting to other people's desire. I mean, the minute I knew they had an interest in me, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I'd act on it. But it seldom led to intimacy because I had no boundaries, and you can't be close if there's no choice in the matter. Or, if we did somehow manage to avoid that logical trap and get close anyhow, I left emotionally. Not honestly, not directly, I set things up so they would give up on me."

"You haven't changed your mind about that interpretation, have you?" asked Ginny, starting to brush her teeth.

"No. I've worked long and hard on it, and figured out the roots, which come from desperately trying to win my mother's commitment -- I had her love but not her commitment, others came ahead of my well-being. Instead of getting her attention, however, I drew the focus of the monster in the household. I had to live a dual existence, dampered down into nothing showing if he was around, throwing myself wide open if it was just me and Mama. Not good skills for adult relationships" said Myra, taking a pee.

"When you put it that way, we're remarkably similar" said Ginny. "Except I didn't go the compulsive route."

"There's a reason for that difference" said Myra, feeling a shiver down her spine. "I don't want to get into that right now."

Ginny glanced at her. "Okay. Back to how Margie might have been right, then."

"So..." Myra was having a hard time cutting through this mental undergrowth. She washed her face and hands, temporizing. Ginny said "I'll meet you in bed, okay?" Myra nodded, brushing her teeth. She put her clothes in the hamper, looked at herself briefly in the mirror, and turned off the light before going to slide in next to Ginny. Ginny put her arm around Myra, pulling her back to spoon.

Myra said "It has really mattered to me that I made a clear-cut decision to stop acting out around sex. To stop cold turkey, to pursue intimacy in other forms. But -- there's a couple of problems with that picture. One is that I did have intimacy already in my life, serious partner-style intimacy with Allie, and then also Chris and Sima. I had stopped having sexual feelings for Allie, but part of why I did all the ground work with her in the beginning of our friendship was because I hoped, believed, it would end up with us being lovers. Isn't that some sort of sexual residue?"

"No" said Ginny. "I don't think so. Our fantasies about where something will end up are often quite different from what reality emerges, and what counts is the final reality."

"Well, then, the story with Chris is -- not that. I now wonder how much sexual tension played a role in our long connection with each other. A tension I never acknowledged to myself." Myra rolled over and looked at Ginny in the lamplight. "I apologize for my failure to see it, I tell you that now. It wasn't exactly a longing, just a typical Myra kind of messiness. The old Myra, I mean."

"Apology accepted" said Ginny. "I think we all cleaned that up. Except for Sima, of course, still got some work there to do. So are those the problems with your image of having gone into recovery?"

"No, there's one more" said Myra, her eyes wide and a little scared. "There's you. You weren't intruding on my space that year, Ginny, you absolutely observed my boundary. But you knew you wanted me. I was in denial about it -- if I had identified you as wanting to come in my direction, I'd probably have treated you like I did Poe or anybody else who approached me without letting me play my games around it, letting me be the compulsive one. All this time, we've acted like I came to you and made the first move. But you kept yourself available. And when I did tell you I'd decided you were the one, you made the next move. You kissed me. You didn't just say yes to heading into intimacy, you took us right into sexual contact."

"Are you saying you didn't want that?" asked Ginny. Her forearm under Myra's hand had gone cool.

"No, I wanted it. But I didn't admit I wanted it, not ahead of time. I was still playing a game in my head, that I took my space and it just so happened when I was ready to go looking, why there you were. It's really mattered to me that I looked completely independent in how we got together."

"You were independent, Myra. I'd never have approached you first" said Ginny.

"Yeah, because your end of the dynamic is to wait to be asked. Your mother shit is that you wanted to be sought after, and my mother shit is that I wanted to do the seeking. But honestly -- you set things up as much as I did, and I -- I let you decide how fast we went into sex. Despite our best intentions, I think we kinda gamed each other."

Myra wondered if Ginny was going to get mad, tell her she was full of shit. Instead, Ginny looked scared.

"Do you think this means we have a rot at the center? Are you considering not being partners with me, because of how we began?" asked Ginny hoarsely.

"No. I think we each have old trauma that crept into even the best parts of our lives, and so fucking what. If we can keep coming back together and facing things together like this, then it was the smartest choice I ever made, deciding to play a game with you" said Myra.

Ginny was breathing rapidly. She lay in silence for a long time. Finally she asked "And what changed? Chris dying?"

"No, long before that. The realization that you could lie to me, in a fundamental way...somehow it made the fairy tale not work any more. Not enough to let you approach me sexually again" said Myra. "Only of course my current clarity is just now arriving. It's been damned hard to admit. The good news is that it is arriving. We're not dead yet, we have a chance to invent a new dynamic."

"Or maybe a new fairy tale" said Ginny, tears in her voice.

"That's a risk" said Myra. "Are you heartbroken?"

"I don't know what I am" said Ginny. "Mostly I just want you to tell me we'll make love again, and it will be as good as it ever was."

Myra didn't reply immediately. Ginny wished she didn't feel too old to invent some sort of melodrama on the spot. Myra said slowly "It's been so important to me to believe I'd found a way around all my abuse crap."

"I think you did find a way around it. The point is that now it's time for you to go through it, right through the middle, and leave it in the dust" said Ginny. "You and me both." She placed a small kiss right on Myra's mouth, and felt Myra shiver.

"Myra" said Ginny softly. "Tell me why you think you went toward compulsion and I didn't."

Myra got out of bed and walked to her chest of drawers.

"What are you doing?" asked Ginny.

"For this discussion, I need clothes on" said Myra. She pulled a jersey over her head and stepped into a pair of stretchy boxers. Ginny said "All right, then, I will too." She found a flannel gown and donned that, meeting Myra back in bed, each of them sitting up. Myra put a pillow in her lap as well.

Myra said, her voice unnaturally high, “My desire...I've had to learn to trust it. My physical desire, I mean.”

Ginny didn't know what to say. There was a pale line around Myra's lips – was she a little short on oxygen? Ginny listened for wheezing.

“Because...he wanted me turned on, you know. They – a lot of them work at it, to get their...victims...aroused. And even though I was so little, I...” Myra trailed off. She looked nauseated, Ginny realized. She put a gentle hand over Myra's on the pillow.

“I'd get wet, Ginny. I never came, but I've talked with women who did. In spite of our terror and revulsion, you know.”

“I know, Myra.”

“So...How could I trust my own body? It took me years. I kept deciding to let the desire of others run the show, women I loved, because why would they hurt me? Then, when it turned out what attracted them was – not who I really am – then it would all fall apart. Until I stopped that decision, and made a new one, that I'd only be with someone when my desire determined all the first moves. Not theirs. And when I knew, without any doubt, they weren't lying to me. Including the lie of not seeing me for who I was.”

Ginny reminded herself If she can bring herself to tell you about her feelings of betrayal about you, it means she IS trusting you. Prioritize the behavior over the language.

Myra looked around for her inhaler. It was on the nightstand. She took a puff and licked her lips.

“You know, Gin, when I said to myself 'No more making messes with sex', it meant I might never have sex again. If that's what it took, I was willing to face it. I think a lot of dykes in our generation, maybe most of us, reached that point. We realized 'Oh, hell, we're carrying the patriarchy into bed with us, even with other women', and we didn't know what to do. Some of us decided having our desire, poisoned as it might be, was more important than anything. Some of us didn't feel that way. I don't know what to do now. If I still have doubts about my own desire, and now I wonder whether how you want me might partly be untrustworthy – what do we do? I mean, this is why you broke up with Bonnie, isn't it?”

Ginny moved her head so Myra's eyes had to look at her again. “Bonnie wanted to fetishize our difficulty. It's not a solution I can live with. But, Myra, as S.E. Hinton told us, that was then, this is now. I've chosen you, Myra. I'm going to go on choosing you. You offer me the soul lessons I want. So...You don't quite trust me. However, I trust myself. And I trust you to grow and change. Therefore, I suggest we both act as if my trust is enough for the time being. We move forward toward desire, without the depersonalization of roles, and we see what happens.”

“You mean, make love” said Myra, disbelief in her voice.

“I mean exactly that. You let my desire lead us. You think that will be the same as what you did with all those other women, but Myra, I'm sure it is not the same, because I know what I'm doing. And even the exalted Karin Barbaras did not know what I know.” Ginny couldn't help herself, she began crying softly. “I love you for every good reason that ever existed, Myra Josong, and I trust my love completely.”

She pulled Myra toward her gently, lying down on the bed. Myra slid on top of her, trembling. Ginny said “I'm going to leave the light on, like our early days.”

“If you're wrong about this, it could break us” said Myra.

“Yep” said Ginny. “It would.” She was grinning through her tears.

Myra looked down into her face, trying to keep her teeth from chattering.

“Kiss me when you're ready, not a minute before” said Ginny.

Myra did.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, May 28, 2009


Gas pillars in the Eagle Nebula M16
(Gas Pillars in the Eagle Nebula [M16]: Pillars of Creation in a Star-Forming Region. Click on image to enlarge.)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite.

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,—
No higher than the soul is high.
~~from "Renascence" by Edna St. Vincent Millay


Wednesday, May 27, 2009


(Photo by ©Liza Cowan.)

Once again, it becomes necessary to do some ABC training on the actual definitions of oppression and "isms". I do this not to answer all the white Right currently throwing around charges of racism -- because we know they are, in fact, racists by belief and deed. Nor do I seek to educate those who would listen to such opinions, because if you look for insight about race from the likes of Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter, you are looking for confirmation of a bias you already hold. It is akin to asking Hugh Hefner for insight about respectful relationships with women.

I'm going back over this ground to correct profound misunderstanding within progressive communities about how to effectively work against oppression, especially in a collaborative, non-guilty manner.

I use the theoretical framework taught to me by anti-racism activist Ricky Sherover-Marcuse. One of her fundamental definitions is: "Oppression is the systematic and pervasive mistreatment of individuals on the basis of their membership in various groups, which are disadvantaged by the institutionalized imbalances in social power in a particular society."

Point one: Note the key words systematic and institutionalized. It is not an oppression if those factors are absent.

Point two: All "isms" are referring to oppression, not preferences or discrimination in the sense of differentiating between two things. "Ism" means a power imbalance, i.e., it has a systematic and institutionalized mistreatment aspect.

Thus, any of the well-understood oppressions or "isms" have one group advantaged with regard to power and all other groups in that category disadvantaged. Power does not flow in both directions when it comes to oppression. There is no such thing as a "revere"-ism. When people of color talk about white people, no matter what they say, they are not capable of being racist because there is no systematic and institutionalized mistreatment of white people in this society. There is no threat to back up their language or beliefs. The power goes in the opposite direction.

This is simply not that hard to understand. When we are growing up, we learn very early which groups are "real people", i.e., advantaged by the power structure and which groups are not. We KNOW who these groups are: Males, whites, middle to upper class, adults (but not elders), Christians, able-bodied, and heterosexual. Or convincingly appearing to belong to those groups, since our culture values appearance far above actual content of character.

As children, when we are being taught these systems of oppression, we are powerless to completely hold onto our own clarity and sense of justice. We resist to the point where our own survival is at stake before we capitulate and accept lies into our world view. This is true of every human being who has ever lived. As we take in the lies, many different kinds of confusion can and do occur. Once we become adults, we have an opportunity (and responsibility) to clear our confusion, as best we can. It will take the rest of our lives, the burden of growing up under oppression.

The lies we ingest are just as likely to be about the groups to which we belong as they are about the "other". When we absorb as truth forced misinformation about our own identity, this is called internalized oppression. But if we act on those beliefs, we are playing into the system, not "becoming the oppressor to our own people". The "oppressor" is the system. Yes, it is human beings who maintain the system, but it will also be human beings from every group who will ultimately dismantle it. We are all allies in this task.

Another common form of confusion is personalizing our mistreatment to the individual doling it out. For example, many boys grow up with abusive mother figures who use any tool available to act out their adultism. Such a boy, when grown, may insist that "women" are equally oppressive to men in the realm of sexism. But humiliating a boy because of his gender is, at baseline, adultism using gender as a tool. It is critically important that each of us sort out our growing-up experiences into actual systems of oppression rather than relying on anecdotal experience, however devastating that experience may be. Empowerment comes from taking on a system, not from simply naming past hurt and remaining mired in confusion. This is particularly necessary if, as adults, we acquire membership in groups which are privileged by the institutions of oppression.

This practice requires maturity, of course. It requires a mindset that can embrace something other than polarities and binaries (including so-called subverted or queered binaries, which are still binaries if you believe they have a basis in reality). It requires accountability and reciprocity, not rhetoric or intentions. It requires street smarts in equal measure to academic theory. It requires a comfort with or preference for pluralism and diversity. It is, thus, a practice found among liberals, if it is found at all.

Dismantling an interrelated system of institutionalized oppressions will require we never engage in trying to compare oppressions -- for instance, is it harder to be a black man or a white woman. (Sound familiar?) There is no way to quantify oppressions against each other, and anybody who engages in this activity is, to put it charitably, giving us a roadmap to how they have been hurt and confused.

Dismantling an interrelated system of institutionalized oppressions will require we not confuse "biological/cultural/ethnic/sexual/religious/age differences between human beings" as a reason or excuse for oppression.

Dismantling an interrelated system of institutionalized oppressions will require we identify all those arenas where we as individuals are non-target for oppression and then act as allies to those who are target in every way we can imagine, not from charity but because it is our liberation we seek.

Begin by interrupting any charge of racism or sexism being leveled against those targeted for these oppressions by those who are non-target. It is bogus and designed to perpetuate confusion. Once we actually HAVE a level playing field, we can at that point discuss whether power is flowing backwards. But that day is not going to arrive in the spring and summer of 2009.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]



(Liza Cowan self portrait, January 2007)

Today the amazing Liza Cowan turns 60! One of the finest women I've ever known, and an extraordinary friend, she has played a huge role in me being as independent and fulfilled as I am.

I mark her birth every year with a post, and I'll refer you back to last year's commemoration for links and biography plus.

Happy, happy Liza Bean. As with everything else you do, you make growing older something for me to anticipate. Love to you always.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Lettuce and greens table
Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

March 2020

Monday afternoon Myra answered the kitchen phone. Allie said “Hey, how's it – what the hell is going on over there, y'all having some construction done?”

“No, they're learning clogging in Dance Class today. Talk loud.”

“Last week I heard Ginny talking to Frances about building what she called a lettuce table, a structure for growing small plants at about waist level, you can put 'em anywhere outdoors. Me and 'Wina was talking about doing that for greens. What with her not drinking milk or liking most dairy products, she needs to get calcium and minerals even more from other foods. If we had small tender greens right outside on our little patio, we'd eat 'em three times a day. It'd be good for me, too. So can you ask Ginny to give me a call, when she's done stomping through the floor, and maybe share us the plans for what she was talking about?”

“You bet. In fact, we'll help build it, if you want.”

“You can hand us tools and make lemonade” said Allie. “I ain't giving up my power tools to you. Or Ginny, whether she got on Chris' leather belt or no.”

“I hear ya.” Myra walked to the storage room, stepped inside, and closed the door. Silence surrounded her. “Listen, you heard about Sima and Annie?”

“Yeah, I saw it coming. Can't believe you missed that one. You ain't weird about it, are you?”

“Not that I can tell. My first thought was just that I'd always imagined Annie having the hots for Chris.”

“She did. They slept together a few times this past year.” Into the long silence that followed, Allie said “That's news too, I gather. You gonna have crap about that, then?”

“Nope. I'm glad for them both, actually. Seems like the only person Annie's missed in her line-up, though, is Ginny.”

“And me, I never even danced with her” said Allie.

Myra had slid onto the long freezer case to sit. Now she stretched out prone and said “Speaking of got a few minutes to talk?”

She could sense Allie's abrupt alertness. “Yeah, a few. Edwina's having her hair done, I gotta boogie in half an hour to fetch her.”

“Okay. Well, I gather you know about me and Ginny being high and dry right now.”

“I heard. Please tell me she be wrong in thinking it have anything to do with Chris.”

“She's wrong. I mean, as far as I can figure out. I just – I don't know how I would've reacted if Chris had wanted to make love with me. It never came close to that.”

“And you knew that from the git-go?”

“Yeah. So the brakes were safely on there, as well.”

“Is that the point, safety?”

“I don't know, Al. I definitely feel desire for Ginny. Since she said no one-way stuff, I've been crazed at times.”

“Well, I hope I don't live to regret this, but mayhap I should ask you a few questions.”

Myra grinned nervously. “Go for it.”

“What is it, exactly, that gives you the heebie-jeebies? The idea of coming with somebody there? Ginny's hand inside you? Her head down between you legs?”

Myra felt her face going red. “You must be about to die over there.”

“Easier over the phone” said Allie.

“It's not the hand or mouth thing, it's not about a particular action or position, I can tell that right away.”

“So is it loss of control?”

“I've considered that.” Myra gave a long sigh. “I always hate to admit my control-freak-ness when it crops up.”

“You the magnanimous Leo, why don't we all just 'preciate you as a beloved and benign tyrant, that about it?”

“Ouch. Okay, yeah, most of the time. But I don't think that's what the key is here. It's more – I want to ask her why she wants me, wants to make me come. And I'm sure she will blow up like the Hindenburg if I do express that doubt.”

“You never had that kind of crap before?” asked Allie.

“At the beginning, a lot. It was all the debris from my past, that I could never even acknowledge with other lovers. Ginny was different. Over time, we dug it all out. Or so I thought.”

“I know what you mean. About the debris.” Allie's voice was very soft. “So you hit a submerged layer?”

“Maybe. Or maybe I stopped believing the work we did was real.”

“Why? Because of that fucker Pat?”

“Because Ginny lied to me. Having to do with sex.”

“Everybody on earth lies about sex, Myra. They ain't no way not to lie about it, we all fucked up around it and unable to walk a straight line. We do the best we can.”

“I know that, Allie. Or at least I did.”

“You one circulation deeper into the spiral, a membrane away from where you was before, heading into the cochlea. That may be all it is. Listen, buddy, I gotta run. We'll talk more, I promise.”

“Okay. This helped. Give my love to Edwina.”

When Myra hung up, she continued to lie on the freezer, staring up at the ceiling. The metal top of the appliance was surprisingly warm. I am so fucking tired of working this hard to figure out ABCs she thought. Stuff I bet Charlie, for instance, knows effortlessly.

The door to the storage room swung open and Sima stared in at her. “What are you doing, taking measurements for your cryogenic preservation?” Before Myra could reply, Sima turned and yelled down the hall “I found her.”

Myra sat up as grandchildren flooded into the room. “Can I lie down up there?” two of them immediately asked.

“Knock yourself out” she said, touching the tops of their heads as she wove though them, retreating to the kitchen. She put the phone in its cradle and passed on Allie's message to Ginny. Ginny looked at inquiringly, but instead of asking what else they talked about, she reminded Myra “Sima's taking them for Jane and Gillam's date night, but it's going to be here. Annie's coming over to help her after dinner. You want me to cook? You could retreat to your study.”

“I accept. I started some salt cod soaking, you could make that creamy baklava casserole for the meat course.”

Ginny gave her a chaste kiss. “Happy writing.”

The following Thursday, Gillam's school had a teacher in-service and he got out early enough to go pick up Mimi, David, and Leah from their preschool. When he arrived at the house, Myra was deep in writing and Ginny was painting. He called upstairs that he'd make the kids' snack before leaving.

Myra tore herself away a page later, walking downstairs and listening to her knees creak. The children yelled out greetings, eating rice and leftover teriyaki vegetables from small bowls with their messy fingers. Myra said “Shit, Gillam, did you use the brown rice from the fridge?”

“Yeah, I'm sorry, were you saving it?”

“No, it's just that I cooked it with chicken stock.” Myra pulled away Mimi's bowl and leaned down to her, saying apologetically “There's meat in the rice, sweetheart. Let me make you some couscous real quick.”

Mimi's face slid from disbelief into outrage before she burst into shrieking sobs. Gillam came to sit beside her, saying “I didn't know, I apologize.”

Myra put bowl of water into the microwave, listening to Mimi wail “Why did Gramma put meat in the rice, she knows I eat rice!”

“She didn't make it for us, it was for this house only. Gramma always cooks vegetarian for you if you're going to be eating, too.”

“Meat rice is poopy! You all eat poopy food, I hate how Gramma cooks!”

“That's not fair, Mimi. She goes out of her way to give you nutritious and delicious meals. We all do, but Gramma especially.”

Myra thought She's not going to be fair at the moment, Gillam. She needs to vent. But Gillam was tired and had spent the day listening to others. She pulled out the now-boiling water and added instant couscous. She cut a slice of Gruyere and set it in a small bowl before fluffing the couscous and putting a generous serving on top of the cheese.

“I hate being the only vegetarian. I hate being different, everybody makes fun of me.”

“Nobody in this family makes fun of you for how you eat, Meemers. In fact, a lot of us are eating more vegetarian because of your example.”

“You all still eat meat, even Aunt Margie. And lots of people make fun of me.”

“Like who? Somebody at school?”

It all poured out, then, a horrid girl named Sedona who had nicknamed Mimi “Meatmi” and pretended to gag when Mimi pulled out her lunch bag every day. Myra put the couscous in front of Mimi, now in Gillam's lap sobbing without his interruption. Ginny had come downstairs and was sitting beside them. Leah immediately asked if she could have couscous, too.

“Nope. You can have more rice if you want” said Myra.

“Or applesauce” said Ginny. The other children decided they were done and began leaving their chairs.

“Bus your dishes” reminded Myra. “Then go wash your hands and faces very thoroughly. We're heading to the library used book sale this afternoon.”

Mimi allowed Gillam to wipe her face, and she began downing her couscous, lifting long strands of melted cheese to her mouth with her fingers. Ginny said “How can there be a child in this day and age who thinks it's okay to make fun of vegetarians?”

Gillam replied “She's got a crappy home life. Her mother has a retraining order out on her dad, and that includes Sedona. I think she's – been victimized.”

“What does that mean?” asked Mimi.

“It's adult knowledge, Meems. I think the truth is, she feels bad about herself and because she doesn't have anyone to help her feel better, she's focusing on you. She thinks making fun of you will get other people to like her.”

“That's stupid” declared Mimi.

“Yeah. She needs more help. She's very sad” said Gillam. Mimi looked like she wasn't buying a word of it.

Myra said to Gillam “We've got this covered now, you can go on home. We'll bring them back directly from the library sale.”

“Can we come back here and have dinner with you tonight?” asked Mimi swiftly. Gillam snorted as he stood, whispering “Monster” to Mimi as he kissed her goodbye. Ginny said to Myra “You want me along?”

“No, go paint. I'm ordering Thai for us tonight” said Myra. Which answered Mimi's question, she thought all versions of Thai food was too spicy.

That night Myra wrote until past midnight, eating dinner at her desk although Ginny took a break to dine with Sima. Myra finally reached the point of looking for grammar errors instead of substantive editing and made herself stop. She stretched, said goodnight to Keller, and walked around the corner to discover Ginny putting her brushes into their jar for the night.

“Are you going to shower?” Ginny asked.

“No. But I'll stay awake if you're quick” said Myra. She closed the blinds, stripped, and lay down. Ginny was drying off as she emerged from the steamy bathroom. She plastered herself along Myra and said “God, I miss you.”

“That's bittersweet news” said Myra in a gentle tone.

“Did you talk with Allie?”

“Yes. No new landscape yet. Except: I tried on the idea of making this permanent. Us being partners without having sex.”

Ginny leaned back to try to see Myra's face. “And?”

“Fucking hated it” said Myra.

“More bittersweet news” replied Ginny, lying her head on Myra's shoulder.

“I'm going to see Nancy in the morning, she had a cancellation” said Myra.

Ginny moved a little closer. A minute later, they were both asleep.

Friday afternoon, Myra announced to the grandchildren it was monthly making-pumpernickel day. The four older children adored pumpernickel, both the finished product and the making of it, with molasses, espresso powder, and prune paste in the dough. Myra had not been able to come up with a gluten-free version, so Lucia was handed off to be Ginny's special challah helper on these days, whispering the bracha alone with her and wrapping the kezayit for disposal. Lucia's braids of her gluten-free challah were distinctive, with four strands instead of three.

During the kneading process, children standing on chairs before two different counters, Ginny said to Myra “How did your session with Nancy go?”

Myra said “You eat much more of that, Charlie, you're going to have terrible diarrhea” before turning to grin at Ginny and said “Good. Very good.”

A moment later she added “A glimmering on the horizon. No shift yet.”

“Glimmering is something” said Ginny.

“I want to go see Nancy sometime” announced Leah.

“Oh, yeah? You have an emotional issue to work on?” teased Myra. She saw Leah glanced in Mimi's direction before she said “Yes.” Myra went briefly still.

“Okay, let's ask your mommy and daddy” said Myra. “Then Nancy. I'm not sure if she works with small children.”

That night, Annie came to shabbos dinner and poker. She had a tell when she drew a good hand: She'd shift from one side of her ass to the other in her chair. Carly had figured it out right away and was methodically stripping her of quarters and dollars. Myra felt conflicted about whether to Annie aside to warn her or join in the plunder herself.

After the children were taken to bed, Gillam said “You know we had that guy come last week to consult with us about Lucia's Asberger's, see what he had to recommend.”

“I was wondering about that” said Edwina.

“We had to talk it over first” said Jane. “I call your sorry ass, you've got nothing higher than a queen” she said to Eric.

“He thinks the reason she's having such interrupted sleep is because her bedroom is not set up right” said Gillam “Fold.”

“Check” said Carly. Annie and Allie folded before Gillam continued. “The wall murals are too stimulating, she doesn't have enough defined space of her own, and the crib has got to go, for sure.”

Ginny and Myra both looked upset the mention of the murals. Ginny bravely said “So do you want to cover over the walls with drapes, like we did for you?”

Gillam sighed as Jane said “Kings in nines. What Lucia really needs is her own room. But I don't see any way to make that happen now, Mimi would never shut up about it if she wasn't the first to get the guest room.”

“You need to ante” Margie told Allie as she dealt. Gillam said “Check. So we're left with moving Mimi fairly soon, to at least get Lucia into a room with only one other sibling. And no, Mom, there are alternatives to covering the wall. Giving her divided space could leave the walls intact, they have meaning for her as well as the others. He recommended an enclosed bed, open on only three sides, plus some sort of hammock chair for her to swing in. He's recommending enclosure for her space in the family room as well, where she plays with her pattern pieces.”

“Raise two-twenty five” said Annie, shifting in her chair. Carly immediately folded. Myra looked at the two cards showing: No possibility of a flush, no sign of a straight. She must have a high pair, then. Myra had two aces. She raised another dollar ten.

“The question becomes, who rooms with whom” said Jane. “We could do the boy-girl split, except the truth is, Lucia gets along best with Charlie. But that would mean putting Leah in with David. They're okay together, despite Leah being a little wary of David because he's Mimi's best bud.”

“However, at some point in a few years, with hormones approaching, boy-girl sequestration is almost certainly going to be necessary” said Gillam. “Raise 65 cents.” Myra looked at him sharply.

“And the thing is, Charlie gets along with everybody, but if he had first choice, he'd want to be with David. He adores his big brother” said Jane. “I don't think he should be penalized for being the non-squeaky-wheel.” It was clear she and Gillam had been over the territory several times.

“How do you think David would feel about Charlie replacing Mimi in his room?” asked Ginny.

“He's going to be crushed about losing Mimi no matter what. Charlie or Leah, it won't matter much to him. He's a little too touchy-feely to share a room with Lucia, she likes more space than he offers” said Gillam.

“Whichever way we go, we'll do it at the start of summer so they have a few months to get adjusted. In September, we're going to enroll Lucia in that special preschool the support group recommends” said Jane.

“It's tres expensive” said Gillam. “But we can swing it, thanks to Chris. I have a heart flush, by the way.”

“Goddammit” said Myra and Annie together.

“Does that mean you'll be going back to work?” Sima asked Jane.

“At least half-time” said Jane, a mix of anticipation and regret on her face. Myra got up to fetch another Sobe from the fridge. She heard Ginny saying “I think Leah would also flourish being with only one other sib. And Lucia's focus would be fun for her. She loves Charlie but he's a scatterbrain. That's my two cents.”

Annie came into the kitchen looking for a second brownie. Myra whispered to her “You fidget in your chair when you draw good cards.” Annie looked wide-eyes and whispered back “Okay. Thanks.”

“In fact” continued Myra, “Carly has no tells, but Allie will put down her cards and crack her knuckles, Eric stops grinning, and Ginny pulls at her ears when she gets exciting hole cards.”

Annie grinned. “And what about you, my oracle?”

Sima was watching them whisper. Myra replied “I'm like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.”

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.



Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there. As usual, those from little gator lead the pack.


Monday, May 25, 2009


Peace is a way of life, a series of cultural choices which build on each other long before conflict appears on the horizon. It's a life that America does very badly, if at all. We have been colonizers, genocidal artists, and bullies since the onset.

Even so, the Bush Years took this appetite for aggression to its ultimate extreme. We are now seeing, reaping, the results of eight years of no foreign policy aside from threats and belligerence.

You label an isolated, paranoid nation as part of the "Axis of Evil", you have to expect they'll live up to your smear. Male adolescent immaturity makes the roads a dangerous place to be, and is partly compensated for by higher insurance rates. Where was our version of State Farm when it came to dealings with other countries? Yep, I'm scared by North Korea exploding a bomb on Memorial Day weekend (no accident in that symbolism). But I'm just as scared about Pakistan having the capability we handed them. And more scared about the fact that Obama explicitly said he would not remove nuclear options from his playbook. We are the chief danger to the world, especially when we deny that fact.

Any approach at all is better than Rumsfeld/Cheney/Wolfowitz/Rice, et al. However, that's a ludicrous standard to beat. Obama and Clinton are both hawks. As my mother used to say, when it comes to militaristic roles in foreign policy, you could throw 'em both in a gunnysack and there's no tellin' which of 'em would crawl out first.

This is where we're going to need serious leadership of the liberal variety, not middle-of-the-road pragmatism. We have to push as hard as we can here, if we're to have any chance of bringing in future approaches which will not shy away from saying no to the Right in all its permutations.

Fear and distance are not environments where our brain's abilities shine. Start there, with your own visceral response. Clean house and get ready to help us think our way out of this mess. It's time for Something Completely Different.


I woke up this morning remembering this poem I wrote. It's been published somewhere, can't find the journal title right now.


The last two times we’ve slid to war
I was awake and saw it start

I watched alone, with just a cat
And wept in what I think was rage

I would have called on god except
God’s name was already in use

And I was pretty sure the chore
Was ours. Rage was no help at all

I did pray in those blasted dawns
For innocents beneath the drop

But also for the souls of those
Who made the choice to cause a death

My chance to sit at home and watch
Is luck, more than a righteous heart

We buy all honor with a myth
And if I lie down free of ghosts

As I close my eyes and stretch
My long-bone muscles into peace

I name my luck and pray for you
It isn’t much, but it spins forth

A filament from then to here
A rosined thread that god can pluck
A way out of the labyrinth
A bind I need as much as you

©Maggie Jochild, written 11:05 p.m., 8 October 2004

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]



Starting this Monday and lasting for ten weeks, I'll post a time-lapse video showing a fascinating natural event. Hat-tip to WordWeaverLynn for the original link, and Wired Science for the article which brought them all to our attention.

Created by JCMegabyte. Text at YouTube reads:

Here we see the later life stages of several Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) Butterflies.

Once the caterpillars are mature, they suspend themselves upside-down, by attaching a body part called the "cremaster" to a silken pad on the twig, much like the way Velcro works.

In about 1 day, the caterpillar sheds its final skin to complete the pupation process. Inside the pupa, the caterpillar has essentially liquified itself into a soup of cells. During the next 12-14 days, metamorphosis takes place - the cells are "re-arranged" and transformed into the adult insect. For most of this process, there is no visible change on the outside, but as the final few days approach, the developing adult butterfly can be seen through the semi-transparent pupal case. The butterfly's wing colors and pattern can be seen to darken. Finally, the fully developed adult separates from the pupal shell about an hour before it emerges, a process called "eclosion".

Once the adult emerges, it takes only a few minutes to expand its wings by pumping a body fluid into the wings' vein structure. After a couple of hours, the fluid dries and hardens, leaving the wings rigid enough propel it in flight.


Sunday, May 24, 2009


Achy Obejas (Achy Obejas, photo courtesy of Depauw University)

Achy Obejas is a brilliant, innovative, lyrical novelist and poet whose work is a motherlode of synthesis. She uses her solid background in journalism to report on culture, but with a poet's sensibility, using a combination of brevity and metaphor to animate across borders.

She was born in Cuba in 1956 and brought to the U.S. by her parents after the Cuban revolution at age six. She grew up in Michigan City, Indiana, with her parents expecting to eventually return to Cuba. Instead, in 1979 Achy moved to Chicago, where she has lived as an out dyke who writes with authority and grace on embracing multiple identities.

The biography up at her website states:

Achy's poetry and fiction have been published in Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas, Indiana Review, Story, La Gaceta de Cuba, Habana Elegante, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Best of Helicon Nine, Another Chicago Magazine, Abraxas, Antigonish Review, Bilingual Review, Conditions, Ikon, Interstate, Phoebe/George Mason University Review, Rambunctious Review, Revista Chicano-Riqueña, Sing Heavenly Muse!, Sinister Wisdom, Strong Coffee, Third Woman, and many others.

An award-winning journalist, she worked for more than ten years for the Chicago Tribune writing and reporting about arts and culture. Among literally thousands of stories, she helped cover Pope John Paul II's historic 1998 visit to Cuba, the arrival of Al-Queda prisoners in Guantánamo, the Versace murder, and the AIDS epidemic.

She writes regularly about Latin music for the Washington Post and about books for In These Times.

Her articles have appeared in the Village Voice, Vogue, Playboy, Los Angeles Times, MS, Weep,, Latina, Latin Girl, Poz en Español, The Nation, Out, Chicago Reader, The Advocate, Girlfriends, Windy City Times, High Performance, New City, Chicago Reporter, The Catalyst, Chicago, Chicago Sun-Times, Hispanic, La Raza, Hispanic Link (a bilingual national syndication service), and many others.

Achy's translation projects have included Maria Torres Piers' By Heart (Temple University Press); catalogue text for "Passionately Cuban," an art exhibition at the University of Albany, Albany, New York; catalogue text for the Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria; Picturing Cuba (University of New Mexico Press, 2002) by E. Wright Ledbetter; and articles for the Chicago Tribune. She was recently contracted by the family of the late Cuban poet laureate Nicolás Guillén to produce a new translation of his work, including the classic "Motivos de Son" (the only authorized English version was previously translated by Langston Hughes in 1948).

During her career, Achy has received a Pulitzer for a Tribune team investigation, the Studs Terkel Journalism Prize, several Peter Lisagor journalism honors, two Lambda Literary awards, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry, and residencies at Yaddo, Ragdale and the Virginia Center for the Arts, among other honors.

Her work has been translated into Spanish, German, Hungarian and Farsi. She has lectured and read her work in the U.S., Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Argentina and Australia, and has served as the Springer Writer-in-Residence at the University of Chicago and the Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Hawai'i.

Achy Obejas is currently the Sor Juana Visiting Writer at DePauw University in Chicago.
Watch Achy Obejas read from her current novel Ruins at Galeria De La Raza in San Francisco on 14 January 2009:


“I like to think that a poem sort of floats above the banalities of things like calendars and clocks. And I like that space that poetry puts you in—where all logic is suspended.”

Not in Cars

dark danger in the shadows of the city city city driving
by the danger darkness urban building and the men men
that serve as girders beams the backbone of the danger
men in windows stories high indiscriminately lurching from
the speeding cars the freeway thieves that drop their
compliments their vile demands commands from rusting
cars on cracking crosstown roads twisting twisted shadows
grotesque mouths that vomit words like green white bullets
to the womyn on the sidewalks in the buildings not in cars

~~ from Sinister Wisdom #16, 1981

"It's just that sometimes other lives lived right alongside mine interrupt, barge in on my senses, and I no longer know if I really lived through an experience or just heard about it so many times, or so convincingly, that I believed it for myself--became the lens through which it was captured, retold and reshaped." ~~ from Memory Mambo


cry sorrow sorrow
coming with your dried snakes charm
charming the crazed and
the innocent with your lyrical
tales of the moon
you claim immortality
you think you'll find me there
the lost child torn from
you by demons that swirl and
burn amidst the golden
brown hair of your devil devil
oh cry sorrow with
your spells and the magic no
one doubts you own
the power that swallows everyone's
you claim life forever
using scars for tears and a
noise noise that shakes
beating all the passion
with a passion
the black sweet bruises and dark systems
wanting to wring them out of
me out of you
you claim life forever
again and again thinking
I'll be there steady ready
to take up the fight
of mother and daughter divided
unsatisfied forever
antagonistic cry sorrow
let your ovary
throb from the pain of my absence
I am the daughter the children
shredded castrated decapitated
in the arid desert
the blood red flames in your eyes
which serve as blinders
to keep you from seeing what
you wish not to see

take a white woman to lie
with you
clean smooth as
the veins plainly visible
through vinyl skin
rest your head on what
you claim so close to perfection
and take repose
rest rest
but when when all seems finally
there's a beat beat
a beat in your head
a pain in your abdomen

siempre por las
there's that fearful wailing

~~from Sinister Wisdom #16, 1981


Achy Obejas website
Her MySpace page
Bio at Voices from the Gaps
Interview with Achy Obejas about Days of Awe at the National Yiddish Book Center


Ruins, 2009, Akashic Books, ISBN-10 : 1933354690
This Is What Happened In Our Other Life (Body Language), 2007, Midsummer Nights Press, ISBN-10 : 0979420822
Days of Awe, 2001, Ballantine, ISBN-10 : 034543921X
Memory Mambo, 1996, Cleis Press, ISBN-10 : 1573440175
We came all the way from Cuba so you could dress like this?, 1994, Cleis Press, ISBN-10 : 093941693X

ONLINE WRITINGS AVAILABLE (Available at her website via Other Writings)

"My Own Private Cuba", an account by Obejas -- in both English and Spanish -- of her most recent visit to Cuba, published in The Chicago Tribune, 19 January 2002

"The End Of The Affair", an article by Obejas about Cuba and Alma Guillermoprieto's memoir Dancing with Cuba, published in The Nation on 15 March 2004

"From Havana With Love", an article by Obejas on how "A new generation faces Cuba's dark reality", published in The Village Voice in February 2001

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]