Showing posts with label Writer-Encounters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writer-Encounters. Show all posts

Thursday, December 01, 2022

imagine: rice, flour, oil, sugar, and beans

I post some version of this reminder that food banks benefit most from cash donations every year. This is as much for me as for people I know. It's always tempting to add extra peanut butter-beans-cereal to my grocery cart to feed my "larger family."  It's always satisfying to imagine that some other children (and I always imagined they were children) would be able to make a snack out of things I'd picked up. And of course when the kids were younger, it was a tangible way to teach caring. But giving to food banks is not supposed to be about how it makes me feel. 

So I've been good about cash contributions. 

But when The Refugee Development Center in town started taking up in-kind donations for Welcome Boxes, I signed right up to bring rice, flour, oil, sugar, and beans. If I were displaced and in a new place, I imagine I could make something my family might recognize from those supplies. I would want to.

There is a passage in Robert J.C. Young* that always resonates with students--where we're asked to imagine ourselves as refugees, to imagine the break in the daily routines of living... like discussing the day's menu with a neighbor. I think about that passage often. 

Anyway, Nu and I dropped off lots of supplies this evening. I could have easily done it before I picked Nu up from their remedial (whole other story!) class at school. But I kind of liked the idea of doing something together that would get Nu out of their own thoughts and social loops for a while.

* Also, that book is the ONLY time ever where I'm listed right next to Homi Bhabha (in the "Acknowledgements").

Sunday, November 27, 2022

reading weekend

I'd saved a couple of books for the long weekend and they were amazing. I'd actually preordered Preeta Samarasan's Tale of the Dreamer's Son-- I was that excited for it. But I saved it to be my reward for after NWSA and Thanksgiving were accomplished. 

At 492 pages Tale of the Dreamer's Son didn't feel long enough, I wanted to keep reading it. I fell in love with P.S.'s first book Evening is the Whole Day, met her at a conference years ago, and then we became friends on "the socials." She thinks Nu is an amazing artist and that Scout and Huck are treasures (all true) and I've loved her quirky and irreverent takes on parenting, her parents, classical music, the odd short story or essay, dead celebrity heartthrobs (Kafka! Chopin!) etc. This book--which has been a long time coming--is nothing like any of that... it's twisted and suspenseful... political gothic. I was sad when it ended.

My other read was Brian Doyle's One Long River of Song, which continuously broke me in so many beautiful ways. It was a book club pick--definitely not something I'd have picked for myself. And kids, that is why I should be in more book clubs.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

"under the trees in Autumn"

I walked out of the house into this weird estrangement of weather...  as though into someones's pointlessly strange story...

I love the hopeful green against the snow. It reminds me of disagreeing with Wallace Stevens' in "The Motive for Metaphor"
You like it under the trees in Autumn,
because everything is half dead.

Try it the opposite way, I want to tell Stevens...
we're all still so alive...

Saturday, November 12, 2022

that's all, folks


This is it: the highlight of my day/week/month...
I'll remember her kind and complimentary words forever.

Pic: with Angela Y. Davis. #NWSA2022

Thursday, November 10, 2022

the Hill

Terrific first day of NWSA in Minneapolis! I feel like we've been working on getting it off the ground for nearly a whole year and it's such a thrill to see it take off. At this point, this fabulous convention has momentum and doesn't even need me... it's quite a thrill. 

Got to see both Anita Hill and Angela Davis today. The Anita Hill conversation was sobering (she has no remaining faith that SCOTUS will rule fairly). It also made me think about coming to political consciousness with the events of 1990-91 and how it must feel to have a lifetime of wonderful work always evaluated in the light of one's sexual harassment. 

At the book signing, I wanted to thank her for being a role model for people everywhere and how much her example guided me through my own Title IX mess, but the line moved too quickly. Thank you, Prof. Hill. 

Pic: Beverly Guy-Sheftall and Anita Hill in conversation. 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

what was I thinking?

I wanted to (re)read some Mary Stewart, who's been a comfort read since my teens, and picked Wildfire at Midnight, which was my first Mary Stewart and a book I'd originally picked somewhat serendipitously from the untouched hardback section in the Holy Angels Convent library. I was so taken by it, I retold it frame-by-frame to my sister and cousins at our sleepover later that week.

Anyway... So I had very good reasons to pick Wildfire... And yes, the language and descriptions were just as flawless and the murder mystery just as intriguing. But of course the historical moment is a key player too--the conquest of Everest by Tenzing and Hillary and... the coronation of QEII.

I guess subliminal colonialism is a thing.

Pic: Reading my Mary Stewart compendium with Scout and Huck.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Okay, this is new...

RH, an old student I've kept in touch with via FB, sent this screenshot for reference and wrote to say he's been contracted to write for a game called Wildsea and that he based an NPC (non playing character) on me. 

To say I'm grateful to be remembered is an understatement. 🥰 And then I was very moved that my character is a teacher/mentor. 😭

It was only when I attached the screenshot here and looked at the name again that I realized that the character Dorma Laspra's name is a composite made of the beginning syllables of each of my two first and two last names. 

🥰 😭 🥰 😭 🥰 😭 🥰 😭

I'm kinda crying now, in case you couldn't tell. 

Monday, August 15, 2022

India at 75

After a few writers shared it on FB, I've been reading this WONDERFUL collection of 75 writers on India's 75th birthday from PEN all day and bugging my cousins to read it too.

Each piece is so beautiful in its own way and every piece is so poignantly regretful about the way the promise of India--a secular, multicultural, pluralistic democracy--is sliding out of grasp. 

The slide towards authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism in my country of birth (and my country of residence) makes me sad on a daily basis. I nearly cried when one of my cousins said that since everything is only about Hindu values now, we wouldn't have the friends--Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Parsi, communist, atheist, etc.--we'd had if we were growing up in India today. 

I tried to share something from the PEN anthology, but how could I pick just one? 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Sir Salman

Really unsettled today by the stabbing suffered by Salman Rushdie, whose brilliant and provocative work is the basis for whole disciplines. I and hosts of others made academic articles/positions/reputations based on his work. And he was always so amiable and cordial every time I met him. 

I'm not a fan of his later work, recent politics, or aspects of his personal life (I stopped buying his books when he supported Roman Polanski), but I cannot forget how breathtaking and eye-opening Midnight's Children was when I first read it or how poignant Haroun and the Sea of Stories was when it came out ... I remember thinking I didn't know you're allowed to do this with language... I didn't know you were allowed to write about this... 

I hope he makes a full recovery. 

Back in 2006, I copied this extract from an article in The Telegraph:

It has not escaped his attention that living under a fundamentalist threat was once a solo occupation for him. Now we all are.

"That's true," he says cheerfully. "And I think we all are in the end making the same choice that I made all those years ago which was, you just have to get on with your life. You know, in the end, that is all you can do."

Monday, July 25, 2022

Thinking about "The Mother"

A long time ago, I read Lydia Davis's "The Mother" from Break it Down. Here it is in its entirety: 

The girl wrote a story. “But how much better it would be if you wrote a novel,” said her mother. The girl built a doll-house. “But how much better if it were a real house,” her mother said. The girl made a small pillow for her father. “But wouldn’t a quilt be more practical,” said her mother. The girl dug a small hole in the garden. “But how much better if you dug a large hole,” said her mother. The girl dug a large hole and went to sleep in it. “But how much better if you slept forever,” said her mother.

Although I read it so long ago, it's always in the back of my head as a reminder of how not to "fix things." While that chilling paragraph is about the specific dynamics of mother-daughter relationships, I think it works for parenting/teaching/editing/being a friend or partner too. There are more of Davis's stories here.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

"bookstores, beverages, and besties"


A slow, quiet (bit sad) day for me today. But I saw this post this morning and have been thinking of "bookstores, beverages, and besties" tours all day.

I'm craving travel and people I haven't seen in a while and don't know how much longer I can hold out.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

into the metaphysical

This list of ten "scenario spoilers" that was published in an issue of Wired in 1997 has been making the rounds my social media lately, and it is fascinating how many (all?) of these bullets are applicable to us 25 years later.

#9 "An uncontrollable plague--a modern-day influenza epidemic" is of course the one that grabs the most attention. I'm reading about the start of our pandemic in the middle part of Louise Erdrich's The Sentence and it feels so eerie reliving the fear and deficit of information in early 2020. 

Also eerie, reading this novel at 2:25 am when everyone else is asleep because there's a very insistent ghost in the book. 

I should probably go switch the load of laundry I started in the basement a while ago. 

But I've watched enough horror movies and I'm no one's fool.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

commencement day

The amazing Robert Pinsky, our commencement speaker today, gave a talk he'd titled "A good idea, a bad idea, and a joke." The joke, he warned us, was unfunny but would save everyone thousands of dollars and many hours of psychotherapy. Here's a paraphrase. Patient tells the doctor: "it hurts when I do this..." Doctor replies: "Then don't do it."

But an unscripted funny moment was when Pinsky was describing how hair sprouts on the human body, using his fingers to mime sprouting at his head, then his armpits, and then the whole auditorium kind of held their breath wondering if he would go further. (He didn't). 

It was bittersweet saying goodbye to advisees and students who graduated today. I went in early to finish writing congratulation cards in my office and was touched to find cards students had crammed into the doorjamb or slid under the door. I thought I knew whom they might be from as I collected them, but I was wrong. None were from advisees or people I had done big, important things with/for. For the most part, these cards referenced small conversations and interactions. I kind of sat with that for a while. The idea that small things had been so important in someone's life made me feel... TBH... a bit anxious, actually. It's easier to do a finite number of big things than it would be to be open and supportive all the time. 

Pic: A screengrab of me doing the faculty marshal thing with the staff/mace and all. I kind of like the extra shoulder width and overall height academic regalia gives me.

And I couldn't help remembering that this happened at last year's graduation.

 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

some "uppy" for my heart

Into this gloriously sunshiny, blue sky day, I fit in goodbye brunch with our guests, a UU service with Nu (now with singing!), a read in the garden that turned into a snooze (with puppies!), a long walk along the Red Cedar, a full house post-guest clean, and then... At showed up for a surprise visit. 

Scout was so excited by this last development (or maybe it's the five pills he's been taking every day) he didn't wait for an "uppy" and just jumped up onto the couch by himself. 

That made my own heart very "uppy" too.

Beautiful Anne Lamott words here for more heart uppy-s. 

Saturday, April 09, 2022

din-din dinners

Nu's friend is over for a sleepover this evening and my friend/colleague SS and their Connecticut family are too. I wondered what the two highschoolers and SS's new college kid--all of whom had never met before--would have in common... But in less than 20 seconds they were talking, arguing, and enthusing about books and shows the three of them had read/watched. I guess that's what books and show do--knit us a common experience. The three of them are off in the rumpus room watching Princess Mononoke with the puppies. I needn't have wondered/worried.

I rarely take pictures of our dinner party table because it feels discourteous to my guests--the food is for them, not my camera. But SS's spouse did. I loved making them a feast (90% of it vegetarian). Just this morning, I read an article on hosting dinner parties Modern Mrs. Darcy linked to with mounting dismay. I agreed with most of the bullets (don't clean before--clean after, make a ton of food, accept help, and so on). But don't change the menu?! No desserts requiring silverware?! That seems like a recipe (ha) for monotony. And contrary to the article's advice, I already have counters cleaned/clear, boxed lunches for guests and fam, and am now off to spend more time playing board games. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

zooming to nostalgia

When the invitation to attend a state of the art talk with so many of my old professors showed up, I RSVPed right away. It was some of the usual suspects from the Thursday Poco Seminar and it  took me back to being a student in Oxford in the first decade of this century--late as usual, racing past the tourists and townies and fellow students to get to Wadham College by 5:15. Usually I didn't bring my bicycle because there'd be wine and/or we'd go to dinner with the speaker and it would be easier to split a taxicab with someone.

It was at 5:00 GMT today, so although I tuned in at noon, it felt like one of those evenings. Lots has happened since then: jobs, publications, promotions; and on the other side: relationships, marriage, kids. It's wild that my profs are still the leaders in the field; it's crazy that I still show up on their acknowledgements pages from time to time. 

There is one person on this panel who is newer, very likely much younger. They mentioned in their introductory remarks that they felt "intimidated." I assumed they meant because of the august company--but no, they meant because they had to cover a lot of ground in very little time. And that, my friends, is one of the many reasons why although both of us applied for the same job at UCLA Berkeley in 2012, only one of us got it (and it wasn't me).

Friday, January 14, 2022

treasure (noun and verb)


Bookclub yesterday at JS's. Everyone took a rapid test before we headed over and it felt delightful to *see* everyone and catch up on news and nosh. 

We'd read The Lincoln Highway (which I didn't love) and as is my wont, I made a dish featured in the book--this time it was "Sally's Casserole," which was actually this although I, naturally, subbed Impossible meat for the beef. I had however, mentioned to L that I was thinking of making fettucine mio amore, another dish mentioned in the book, and L came up with the author's recipe! Then I spent way too much time going down the rabbit hole of other recipes based on mentions in books.

My most favorite part was the tour of JS's treasures from walks and hikes--pods and nests and dried flora (pic). I love how JS (a poet) finds treasure everywhere. Such a lovely evening and a memory to treasure in the months to come. 

Thursday, January 06, 2022

"change not closure"


I heard of ambiguous loss only last year, but it was one of those moments that helped me understand a lifetime. Pauline Boss who originated that term (in grad school!!) has a new book out in which they urge that we prioritize adapting to change instead of forcing closure. It was a day of making some tough decisions with Big A (out of state job) and Nu (school-related stuff), so this was a helpful read. 

I've heard other people say the same thing — that they were more adaptable than they thought they could be. I saw it during World War II as well. I was a youngster then. People adapted and were extremely resilient and came through it, the ones that were still living. I see it again now. I'm again pleasantly surprised at human resilience. It's not true of everybody, but it's true of, I think, most of the people. And so I say this to people: Pat yourself on the back.

*Patting myself on the back.* 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

bell hooks

Not bell hooks... and not at just 69...

I've learned so much from her since my first feminist theory class and I've always had her work in all of the classes I teach.  Students love how easy and joyous her work is and how richly rooted in love and community. I gave copies of her All About Love: New Visions to lots of people just last Christmas, including At who fell in love with it. 

(And I had to talk myself out of being irritated by people who used uppercase to spell her name in their canned tributes although it felt so disrespectful; and I have to look away from the early death of another black activist; and I'm sitting with Kaye Wise Whitehead's "It is sometimes hard to imagine being in a world when the geniuses of your time are no longer in it.")

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

two notes in a minor key


A. This photo on FB marketplace gave me major Hemingway-babyshoes flash fiction vibes.

B. Looking over minutes from last month's faculty meeting (which I had joined online) it turns out that my only contribution had been re. the library deaccession: "Maya—This is a blow. Used to be in acquisitions for post colonialism. Loves teaching in the library stacks. Students are missing opportunity physical catalogues. Going to sell books for peanuts—not placing them in another library. Very upset."

Those last two words made me chuckle extra hard. Not sure if I claimed to be very upset or if the empathetic poet-novelist-playwright colleague who took minutes that day summarized my rant. 

simply

A cold day, but beautiful.  Walks with some of my favorite people: L, Big A,  me... Pic: An icy Red Cedar River