Archive for July, 2009

Time to Register for Fall Writing Classes – CLASS FULL

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

This is best writing class I have ever taken! Almost painlessly you got us to write, write, write. And for me got at some new great material.

–Kitty Torres

Eight-week class starts Sept. 15
Taught by Ariel Gore

The creative jolt we all need — for writers wanting to work on either memoir or fiction — we’ll make time to write, create new material with weekly deadlines, and improve our craft with practice and critique. Appropriate for writers working on longer projects as well as those who want to write to assignments and produce short essays and stories. The pace is quick and energizing–you won’t even have time to worry about creative blocks. Class combines online discussion/critique, email, and telephone coaching. Class size is limited, so please sign up early.

$85 deposit saves your spot – balance due when class starts


I will also be teaching a 10-week memoir workshop and a 6-month book-writing workshop at The Attic in Portland. Get all the info & sign up at The Attic

the privilege of traveling

Friday, July 24th, 2009

I loved this post from from Ma’ia at guerrillamamamedicine

because I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately–about the way that sometimes when people point out your privilege it’s helpful and real–helps you to open your eyes and see the things in your life you are taking for granted. And how sometimes people are just trying to silence you and make excuses for their own lack of courage:

i have been thinking  about writing this post for a while.  in part i have not done so because i do have lots of privilege and have been able to travel.  and i felt awkward, felt like i was making myself vulnerable to criticism if i wrote this.  but then i figured, fuck it.

i had one of those conversations that i seem to have every few months with someone new about how i do not take into account how privileged i am to be able to travel and live abroad.  and how privileged i was to be partnered. when i talk about my experience of being a mother.

privilege.  privilege. privilege.

1. i do take how much privileged i am into account.  actually in some ways i am more aware of certain types of privilege because i travel.  for instance, the power of my US citizenship comes into stark relief when i am abroad.

2. and i know that it is a privilege to be in a happy partnership, both of us dedicated to loving aza and each other.

3. but i also know that traveling and being partnered is not in and of itself simply privileged.


let me see if i can put it this way:

through out history.  as long as there have been wars.  mothers have traveled with their children.  they have to survive.  they become refugees.  they become slaves.  they travel to find a safe place to live and create a life with their families.  they leave home to flee abusive husbands, or advancing troops, to find doctors, to find lost family, to take care of sick family, to find work, to find food, to find peace.

yes it can be a privilege to travel.

but it can also be a privilege to stay home.

it can be a privilege to feel that where you are is probably safer than where you are not.

it is a privilege to have a place that you call home.

it should be a right, but for now it is a privilege.


and my life has shown me intimately that being partnered can be a blessing or a curse.  some mothers are happily partnered and some are terrorized and abused and forced to stay partnered.  sometimes being a single mother is a privilege and being married is an oppression.

once upon a time in an empire far far away i gave up nearly everything i had just to get out of a relationship.  and im glad we didnt have children together because if we had had them i pretty certain that he wouldnt have let me leave alive.

and i couldnt just leave the city. or the state.  because he followed me.  state to state.

i left the continent.

i left because i realized that i deserved to be happy.  and for years i had been with him in a small southern town.  still segregated.  really trying to build community through artistic expression and space.  really convinced that this was the important work.  and that it didnt matter that i felt stifled.  stay local.  stay local.  just nurture your garden.  and if everyone did that then the world would be a better place.  and all that.

and dont get me wrong.  i believe in community building locally.  i do.  some of the most amazing community leaders i have known have not traveled more than 30 miles away from their home for their entire life.


but what i realized was that i dont believe in the kantian categorical imperative nature of the stay local ideology.  i dont believe that something is ethical or moral if it fits into the formula of: if everyone did action a, the world would be a more peaceful place, and thus everyone *should* do action a.

its like in a wrinkle in time (do you remember that book?) and the kids get to the planet where all the houses are the same and all the kids are all bouncing their balls to the same exact rhythm, and then all the mothers come out of the houses at the same exact time and bring the kids inside.  and they all are acting like robots?

that is what i think of when someone throws a kantian categorical imperative at me. if everyone did it…the world would be a better place.


ok. you ever think of refugees as privileged?  no?  really?  cause they are.  in comparison to the folks who they left behind in that war zone.  the sudanese refugees here in cairo are really privileged.  let me put it in perspective: the capital of south sudan, jemba. has three paved roads.  three.  so what if the sudanese refugees can barely access decent health care are barred from enrolling in egyptian schools, live in ghettos, are harrassed constantly by the police, are suffering from ptsd, seperated from their families- that is the members of their families that are still alive-are ex sex slaves and child soldiers…

but they are privileged…and it was when i realized that that i thought: wtf does privilege mean?

and once i realize they are privileged…then what?


once i realize i am privileged.  that being able to leave a dangerous situation by any means necessary was a privileged act.  then what?

and now years later, happily a mama, partnered, beloved, and living abroad.  happy to live in a place where i feel safer.  happy to create love.  where does privilege fit into this?  is privilege the reason that i am happy or is privilege contributing to my happiness?  am i happy despite my privilege?

is living in a place where i feel reasonably safe a privilege?  hell fucking yes it is.

is living in a place where it is safe to be loved and being able to love a privilege?  yes.

do i have the privilege to determine for myself what is safe for me?  yes.

do i have the privilege to determine that for me and mine it is safer for me to live in the west bank than in chicago?  yes.

am i about to give up any of those ‘privileges’?  nope.

am i a refugee?  absolutely not.

am i a working class black mama with ’some college’, a us citizen able bodied with access to social class privilege who lives in cairo, egypt on scale with a middle class egyptian family?


this is what i dont get.  why every couple of months do i get in one of these fucking ridiculous conversations about single motherhood vs. partnered motherhood or working locally vs.  globally?

can folks even tell why these fucking conversations are ridiculous?

how do you know the content of my life?  how do you know that my husband isnt abusive?  (he isnt but still…) how do you know the content of my marriage to the extent that you can determine that my partnership is obviously so much more privileged than your singlehood?

and how do you know that me traveling is more privileged than you staying home?

is there a way we can have a conversation about privilege and oppression that makes sense?

it was contemplating this. that i realized that i need to find a more accurate paradigm for figuring out who i center in my organizing…

Jim Crow-ly?

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Wait, is the cop kidding with that name?

(CNN) – A Cambridge, Massachusetts, police officer said Thursday he will “never apologize” about how he handled the arrest of prominent black Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“That apology will never come from me as Jim Crowley, it won’t come from me as sergeant in the Cambridge Police Department,” Sgt. James Crowley told Boston radio station WEEI. “Whatever anybody else chooses to do in the name of the city of Cambridge or the Cambridge Police Department which are beyond my control, I don’t worry about that. I know what I did was right. I have nothing to apologize for.”

Crowley also said he was exercising caution and is clearly not a racist based on his previous actions.

thinking about Revolutionary Letter #19

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

by Diane di Prima

(for the Poor People’s Campaign)

if what you want is jobs 
for everyone, you are still the enemy, 
you have not thought thru, clearly what that means.

if what you want is housing, Industry 
(G.E. on the Navaho reservation) 
a car for everyone, garage, refrigerator, 
TV, more plumbing, scientific 
freeways, you are still 
the enemy, you have chosen 
to sacrifice the planet for a few years 
of some science fiction utopia, if what you want

still is, or can be, schools 
where all our kids are pushed into one shape, are taught 
it’s better to be “American” than black 
or Indian, or Jap, or Puerto Rican, where Dick 
and Jane become and are the dream, do you 
look like Dick’s father, don’t you think your kid 
secretly wishes you did

if what you want
is clinics where the AMA
can feed you pills to keep you weak, or sterile,
shoot germs into your kids, while Merck & Co. grows richer

if you want
free psychiatric help for everyone
so that the shrinks,
pimps for this decadence, can make
it flowers for us,

if you still want a piece 
a small piece of suburbia, green lawn 
laid down by the square foot 
color TV, whose radiant energy 
kills brain cells, whose subliminal ads 
brainwash your children, have taken over 
your dreams

degrees from universities which are nothing
more than slum landlords festering sinks of lies,
so you can go forth and lie to others
on some greeny campus

THE ENEMY, you are selling 
yourself short, remember 
you can have what you ask for, ask for 


Saturday, July 11th, 2009

the assignment was to walk my neighborhood

and take 5 pictures. just 5.

this is my girlfriend’s bike. her last bike got
crushed on the summer solstice, along with
the baby seat, while it was locked to another
‘no parking’ sign outside our house. coming
home to see the bike mangled under someone’s
minivan, and the baby seat too, made me think
we should leave town.

i walk under this underpass every day,
but i’ve never noticed this sign before.
what does it mean?

i love the way you can be in any little podunk corner
of town and a train track makes the space instantly
urban. the kids honor it as urban with their paint.

if we leave town, i will miss the co-op, and the little
juice stand in front of it, even if it takes a while to
get your juice sometimes because the girl walks away
and picks the ingredients from a garden down the
street to make your juice.

i think if we leave i will miss the ease
with which things grow here.

first haircut

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Queer as Portland

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Review in Portland Mercury

Diversity on Display in Portland Queer
(published on my birthday!)

The submission guidelines were simple, Ariel Gore explains in her introduction to the anthology Portland Queer: Tales of the Rose City. “First-person narratives by queer writers about queer characters in Portland, Oregon.” The guidelines are so simple, in fact, that they function as a sort of creative litmus test.

Some writers take the obvious route: There are the predictable I-was-such-a-freak-in-high-school coming-of age stories, and the the-word-queer-is-so-empowering coming-out stories. In some of the best stories in the book, though, the narrator’s sexual identity is part of the story’s background, rather than its focus. Local musician sts, for example, writes of her friendship with a neighbor boy, a troubled, parentless kid who’s living unhappily with his sick aunt. It’s a fine piece of writing, conveying subtle volumes in its scant seven pages.

Another standout comes from Michael Sage Ricci, whose “The Strange and Highly Selective Mating Patterns of the Human Male Animal” has the best premise in the collection: A videogame addicted gay man adopts a female avatar when playing online role-playing games. Pretending to be a woman, he develops a flirtation with another gamer, a straight man, letting the man believe he’s a woman. When the two arrange to meet in real life, a curious revenge fantasy unfolds.

One story that does effectively foreground queer issues is Christa Orth’s “Not Following the Rules.” Orth’s story begins with an account of her efforts to convince the University of Oregon to extend non-discrimination protections to transgendered workers. The difficulty in persuading the university that there was a need for such protections inspired her to begin investigating the history of queers in the workplace. She provides two local case studies, of a lesbian working at Tektronix in the mid-’90s advocating for benefits for same-sex partners, and an openly gay switchboard operator in the 1970s. It’s fascinating stuff. Orth could get a book of her own out of material like this, and I hope that she does.

Gore’s editing here deserves a nod: The characters in Portland Queer are fittingly varied, ranging from angsty young lesbians to middle-aged evangelical gays; from kids still figuring out what pronoun they want to use to HIV-positive men remembering long-dead lovers. It’s a collection as diverse as the community it represents.