Thursday, June 30, 2016

What I'm Reading- The Gap of Time

My sister gives really great book recommendations.
My sister has encouraged me to read anything by Jeanette Winterson for about three years now. I’ve mulled it over, added a few of her books to my Wishlist, and done nothing productive with my life. Until two weeks ago. I walked into the Library (my happy place), and found The Gap of Time on the new books shelf. I casually checked it out, paid the $10 in overdue fines that I had, and walked out of the library #likeaboss
Then, I didn’t pick up the book for two weeks, because that’s me I guess…

But when I did finally pick up the book again, I got sucked in quickly. It’s a retelling of The Winter’s Tale, one of Shakespeare’s later (and weirder) plays. Basically, a jealous king accuses his pregnant wife of cheating on him. He humiliates her in front of the kingdom, and she dies.  The child is rescued and left on an island to be raised by commoners, forgotten.  However, there’s remarkably a happy ending. Once the king repents, he’s brought to a statue of his wife. He confesses his wrong-doing, and the statue comes to life again.  Fresh start, 16 years later.

The Gap of Time is a retelling, a cover. It forces us to see an old story from a new perspective. It brings into focus how heartbreaking, and real the story can be.  Leontes/Leo repents, but still has to wait for the next generation to pick up the pieces.

My favorite element is the parable about the angel.

“One night he had a dream that an angel, vast and majestique, had fallen into the courtyard. Folding his wings as he fell, the angel was trapped. Feathers drifted through the windows into the dark apartments. An old woman began to stuff a pillow.
If the angel tried to escape by opening his wings, then the buildings would collapse. But if the angel didn’t open his wings he would die….
What do you do, if to be free you demolish everything around you?”

And I think that’s so very human, even though it’s a story about an angel, obviously. For a species so intent on building, we sure cause a lot of destruction. Most of the collateral seems to be other living things: rainforests, animals, other humans, usually our families.  Family is tricky, and never simple.

“The missingness of the missing. We know what that feels like. Every endeavor, every kiss every stab in the heart, every letter home, every leaving, is a ransack of what’s in front of us in the service of what’s lost” (122).

I told my friends that this book knows my heart better than even I do sometimes.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Book Riot- Men Explain Things to Me

Book Riot has a challenge called Read Harder, where they have a list of genres to read from. It’s a good way to push myself into reading genres that I’m not used to, or don’t generally read.

Personally, I tend to stick to either classic literature or fluffy fiction, so I decided to do this, at the beginning of the year, when I was full of zeal for putting my life back together.  This weekend, I read a book that fit into the category of Nonfiction Book About Feminism, or Dealing with Feminist Themes. Last year (or two years ago?) my sister gave my Bad Feminist for my birthday. Side note: if you have not read that book, you need to. If you identify as a person, you need to read that book.  This year, I picked up Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit. I think the library hates me. It’s very overdue at this point, because I keep rereading my favorite essays.

My favorite essay, Cassandra Among the Creeps, starts out: “The story of Cassandra, the woman who told the truth, but was not believed, is not nearly as embedded in our culture as that of the Boy Who Cried Wolf—that is, the boy who was believed the first few times he told the same lie.” It’s hard to believe that this book was published before the Stanford Rape Case, before Brock Turner the cultural attitude of misogyny and entitlement was put on display.

The book starts with a funny story about man-splaining. Which I’ve experienced too.  I think most all women have. My first year teaching, a dean walked over, interrupted my lesson planning, and proceeded to give me patronizing (and frankly wrong) advice about my ESOL accommodations. He did not care, know, or hear me say that this is a specialty of mine. A field I have achieved 200 hours in, even before graduation.

Women are routinely silenced. Feminism, “the radical idea that women are people,” is still needed. I have much to learn, and society resists changing. But it does. Slowly…

In the final essay, Solnit writes: “Feminism is an endeavor to change something very old, widespread, and deeply rooted in many cultures…That so much change has been made in four or five decades is amazing; that everything is not permanently, definitely, irrevocably changed is not a sign of failure.” Keep fighting…