Monday, April 15, 2019

When Your Past Wasn't Present: Semi-Finalist in 2018 Faulkner Competition

And then there was the time I realized, nearly a year later, that my novel, Hezada! I Miss You, was a semi-finalist in the 2018 Faulkner Competition.

So, good news, folks. ;)
I'd like to thank Google for logging my past so I can learn about it later.

And better news, Awst Press​ is publishing Hezada! in February 2020 
Which is to say, some things about my life I do know in advance. This version of the novel is also twenty thousand times (or so) better than the past version.

Should you want to read my name on the list of semi-finalists, here's the link:


Monday, April 8, 2019

Read This Book: Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, edited by Roxane Gay

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, edited by Roxane Gay (Harper 2018)

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture is a collection of essays by writers across the spectrum (of gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, culture) who discuss the experiences, silences, and analyses of what it is to live in a society enshrouded by rape culture. This is no ordinary book but it is full of ordinary experiences made extraordinary by our continued insistence on disregarding, gas-lighting, and denying that these experiences happen all the time.

In "The Life Ruiner," Nora Salem writes, "What is it about secrets that endows them with so much power? More pertinent: Why was I so obsessed with keeping mine? Why for so long?"

In "Good Girls," Amy Jo Burns writes, "The good girl is nothing more than a myth. We long for her for the same reason we long for utopia: Neither exists."

Stacy May Fowles, in her essay "To Get Out from Under It, begins by reminding everyone that part of the effect of this culture on personal memory is that "... the world fills you with doubt over the legitimacy of your own story."

From Roxane Gay's introduction regarding the project of this book to the final essay, "Why I Didn't Say No" by Elissa Bassist, the book is an intense and important examination of, and testimony to, the relationships of ourselves to others, of ourselves to our culture, of trauma to shame, silence to ghosts, of culture to our interpretations of who others expect us to be.

This book is not a primer for those who have been unaffected by Rape Culture, though this book certainly demonstrates, by its culmination of voices, that no one is unaffected, even those who believe themselves exempt (who would? how could that even happen?).

In reading the book, I remembered what it was to go to books when I was growing up in a very rural and small town, when books were the only reliable and safe place to learn about life because I had the distinct feeling that, in person, I was not being told the whole truth about the world. And maybe that was because people didn't know how to speak about it. Or because people didn't want to hurt my feelings. Or because the darkness of the world hurt their feelings and they thought I would be affected similarly (as though the world might heal itself if we didn't tell it about its wounds).

Or because they had bought into some mythic beliefs about keeping me innocent (based on their beliefs about innocence and how they imagined me) or because they were censoring the world in the way they wished the world to be instead of how it was. Or because this is how the world was given to them, and so this is how they knew how to give it--as not quite itself, as part wish, always.

Or because no one had spoken to them honestly about the things I expected to be spoken to honestly about, and so, eventually, they'd forgotten that these were things to speak about.

Or because no one knew the questions I would have except for the books that anticipated both my questions and different ways to consider the questions.

Or because people maybe thought that if they were to talk to me about things that they had no solution for, I would think less of them, as though solutions are required before acknowledging problems, injustices, conundrums, gray spaces, confusions, errors, and anything else that a tried and true narrative can't, or refuse to, contain (or allow us to avoid).

Not That Bad is a book you probably need to read, in your own time, in your own safe spaces, at a pace you can handle. And before you decide not to read it, first pick it up and read from it. Hell, skim it, even before you settle in to following every word to the next. 

But here, before you think this book isn't for you: no one would have written the essays in this book if they'd read essays like these elsewhere, if they'd already seen films that cover what they're writing about, if they'd already heard in everyday passing the words that they're setting down on the page. Roxane Gay would not have thought to create this book, collected these essays, found a publisher for them if she thought other books did a great job of doing exactly what she's doing here. These are not essays you've read 1,000 times before. All of these writers have clearly written essays for you to read. Roxane Gay has clearly chosen essays for you to read. The publisher has clearly published a book of essays that should be read. In some ways, the book reminds me of one of the rape counselors in the book who tells one patient that her reactions are like the reactions of so many others who seek her out, but only the counselor sees the pattern and can transmit this because the clients have been shamed out of ever sharing these stories, so all find themselves thinking it's just them. The book is a conduit. That's what I'm saying.


Here's the link to Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture