A few Happy Booker links this afternoon:
My review of Catch a Wave is up at the AARP site. Also, library programs for teens and pre-teens in the D.C.-area get a little attention from me in the Washington Post. (Not to be confused with the article where I dragged my youngest son to the library for toddler programs).
Tomorrow may be the official start of summer, but we're already working on summer hours over here. Forgive the paucity of postings, we're trying to make with the links and keep things rolling around here. For you, always for you.
For those who missed Miss Livingston's monthly report from the poetry front, stop by the first week of July, when there will be plenty of Reb to go around—she'll be tan, rested and recuperated from her bout in the Mommy Wars. For those who find they can't make it through the month without our Crucial Rooster's wry eye and discerning way with words, we urge you to clickity click on over to Pterodactyls Soar Again and get your fix. We completely understand.
The 2006 Annual National Women Studies Conference, held at The Oakland Marriott Hotel from June 15-June 18, was a swarming swell of professors, graduate students, and chairwomen from university women’s studies programs all across the country.
“Dear---, “I began my first letter to one of my best friends after Rebecca Walker delivered her keynote speech to a room of 400 assembled women , “God, it was packed tonight and this writer named Rebecca Walker gave the keynote speech which made everyone rabid. She started saying how women need to be biological mothers and have families which is like dropping a smoke-bomb in the center of the room—here I am amidst "feminists" who have spent their careers advocating choice for women. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. People were polite but boy, they were pissed off at her. Then she went on about how she had become a Buddhist and was now studying with the Dali Lama. What a scene, watching her repeat her sentences, take deep breaths as if she had just spoken the word of the great spirit. I had hoped feminism wasn't a comedy act but maybe it is...Still there are some truly dedicated women I hope to meet here.…“
After this painfully public event, in which nearly a quarter of the room got up and left before Ms. Walker even finished (she had taken to calling everyone “sweetheart”, and thrust away the podium as it was “ a patriarchal symbol of phallic power), I went upstairs to the barroom to check my email, and get a much-needed scotch. Next up was the following exchange between a middle-aged man drinking beer with his buddy and me, waiting for my scotch.
“Hey,” he called to me. “So are you sexist?”
“What?” I was confused.
“A sexist...are you a sexist?”
Finally it registered. Clearly he was enjoying jabbing me with this derogatory label that had, of course once been turned on him. “Well,” I stumbled, “I guess you’ll have to ask my husband.” I did try to smile at him.
“Yeah,” he pressed, “but what happens to him if he says you are?”
For some reason, this wasn’t funny. My scotch came. I paused for a huge sip. Then: “It’s too bad women’s studies can’t be taken seriously.” I said, as whisper-ey as I could . Now it was hurting to be here, maybe I shouldn’t have come?
He turned away, back to his beer and friend.
To refocus my mind and forget how sad he made me, I perused the fifty page booklet listing the panels and programs for the next few days as I drank. Just to make sure I could stay. These were some of panels: “Lipstick, shopping, dieting and sex? Challenging Corporate Co-optation of ”Girl-Power” Online”; “Hot Fantasies at the Margins: locating black female desire in the erotica of Zane.”; “Busting Out: A disarmingly honest and intimate exploration of our society’s fascination with women’s breasts”. But,then I did notice that ,just as prominently, these panels were listed, too: “Violence, the Feminine and The State”; “Aging and Ageism; “Women of Color”; “Women’s Writing in the Literature Department”. In fact there was a wealth of fascinating, inspiring programs and they slowly came to my attention as I thumbed through. Everything from papers on how Russian women were being being bought and sold, shipped over from Moscow to New York to be auctioned off as “Russian brides”; panels on the literary representations of childhood sexual violence; seminars about transnational feminist theory, the closing of independent feminist bookstores, the widening divide between academia, our poverty-stricken American neighborhoods, and our culture (which increasingly is cut-off and suspects intellectualism, and intellectuals. I can’t remember when, at last, I turned from the booklet, the chattering men at the bar, to gaze out into the large room now filling to capacity with serious women, their university affiliation tags on a black string falling down their chests like badges, or war medals. Clan-like lines formed at the ladies room ,by the internet computers, and an oceanic feeling swept through and over me. Some collective charge was in the air, like a lot of double A batteries working quietly and smoothly in supportive unison, galvanizing one big and important machine. And I was a double A, too! A feeling of staring into mirrors, everyone somewhere had a part of me someplace in their own body, and so reflected an affirmation, a confirmation of my own shaky existence. There was a soothing, if (temporary) solace in having an un-challengeable identity for once. As a writer, I seem to always be put into one margin or another, slipped into one label or another, sectioned off. And as a “citizen” I’m one is one demographic entity or another but mostly not much of an entity at all, splintered into a bunch of proscribed “sub-groups”. I had forgotten how uplifting “unity” can be.
As the conference progressed, the papers delivered were, for the most part, simply brilliant. Dynamics of power, nuances of gender, the analysis of the elements of our ever-complex society and some of its widespread oppressions.
Now it’s Sunday. I gave my reading,( a short section from my novel Edges) I promised to get together with other women from places as distant to me as the moon (as a New Yorker, making a date with someone who lives in Kentucky or Toronto is like space travel). So many professors, performers, writers, poets, and students all thinking passionately in complicated ways, perhaps too myopically omitted from our everyday news and consciousness. Here was proof that they were really around. Lots of them. And that’s encouraging.