“and i used to sleep with my books in piles all over my bed, and sometimes they were the only thing keeping me warm, and always the only thing keeping me alive. books and beer are the best and worst defense.” -sherman alexie


i’ve been spending the past week surrounded by words. piles and piles of good things to read, everywhere. another mother tongue: gay words, gay worlds by judy grahn is literally changing my life. teaching me about so much of our queer history that’s been stolen from us. delving into radical etymology and it explains so much, it’s taught me so fucking much about the world i live in and the traditions that i come from and didn’t even know it. teaching me about my people, and the people who aren’t my people but who i am tied to through invisible webs of sinew and blood and guts. am i making any sense here? through this book i learned that purple is historically the color of transformative change, which is part of the reason why lavender used to be a color associated with queers, and i think also part of the reason why purple items of clothing keep coming into my life. and why everyone i see is wearing purple these dayz. it stands out.

i got a big envelope full of back issues of make/shift magazine this week, which is truly one of the best magazines i’ve ever read. completely mindboggling and nothing short of revolutionary. i don’t take that term lightly, by the way. the essay i am thinking about the most right now is by lenelle moise. writing about an encounter on a nyc subway with a taunting skinhead, while having the worst period of her life. she writes about how sometimes when she is having intense cramps, she is reminded of all the suffering in the world, she feels it intensely. she says that she can feel the pain of the world in her abdomen, and my jaw dropped, because i do that too. and i’ve never heard anyone else talk about it, not like that. but when i am crampy i sob at the injustice of the world. the things that i can bear the rest of the time. the birds with bellies full of plastic & my friend in solitary for years & human trafficking & sweatshops & the pile of trash in the pacific ocean that’s nearly the size of a country, or a continent, i forget what it is. i can feel it all then, and sometimes it’s the most debilitating part of all. it was a stunning essay, for many reasons besides that one. she writes that when she is being unfairly and obviously attacked she reminds herself that she is a writer, and her job is to record and remember. that she survived the bad things because she was able to document them. it meant so much to me.

i got this zine at the nyc feminist zinefest (which was really freakin’ awesome, by the way, if a touch overwhelming):

and it was SO FUCKING GOOD. i loved it! critical reflections on working to help people within “the system”. it’s by juniper who worked at a domestic violence agency & a homeless shelter. and about the ways that institutions and burnout and ignorance so often get in the way of actually helping people who desperately need it. i needed this zine. a lot of zinesters don’t “work”, in the traditional sense, for lots of valid reasons, or else have recordstore/coffeeshop jobs, or else write for a living. and a lot of the people you meet working at social work jobs aren’t creative, aren’t reflective, are just trying to get through the day in the least harmful way possible…so, reading a zine that blends these two worlds was really awesome. i want to write this person a letter, but they didn’t include any contact info! juniper, where are you?

and elvis wrote a zine on one of my favorite topics: 70’s feminism!!!! elvis is a generally delightful-seeming human being and i really adore their witty, adorable, thoughtful zines. i am so oddly fixated on 70’s feminism that i sometimes wonder if i participated in a past life…if i inhabited that land of women’s bookstores and coffeehouses, mimeographed newsletters and consciousness-raising, polite racism and infighting, and then died at some point in the late 70’s–early 80’s. and i wonder if this soul decided to come back as a little girl in the nyc suburbs, to live in this world that my 70’s self had fought so hard to change. a world of title IX and punky brewster and roseanne and bikini kill. it probably seemed pretty good to my 70’s feminist self. but that little girl was still going to have quite a time being a girl in this world, because it hasn’t changed enough.

yes, this is me, c. 1982.

i mean, doesn’t it kind of make sense? i remember identifying very strongly as a feminist as a really, really young child, like 7 or 8, when i insisted that i play little league and not softball because i wanted to be seen as equal to the boys, and i remember being so angry at the different ways that boys and girls were treated. so! new past life idea!

wow, this post is getting long. two more things: my reading with karen was wonderful, most of of my pgh favorites were there and i read really well and felt really loved. i read from a new project i’m working on, a memoir that is very painful to write & also a bit of an overshare. people were REALLY receptive to it, though. and karen’s reading was oddly parallel to mine. she wrote about how she felt the need to write tell-all books and she traced that back to being a former catholic, raised with the tradition of confessional. duh! of course! that’s why i feel the need to overshare on this blog, my zines, and my books. amazing! thanks, karen, for explaining me to me.

and, two, i have been dancing in my kitchen to invincible  and her work reminds me of all the reasons not to give up & all the work that is left to do. that’s all. the end.


2 responses »

  1. I too have been dancing to invincible in my kitchen, last night after sooooooo many hours of being awake and trying to coordinate a lot of things. I love your long post and your kitchen stop over, and your reading the poem out loud. I can’t wait to read make/ shifties.

  2. hey ocean! I just saw your lil’ tag of me in this post… isn’t mimeograph 1970’s style great?! 🙂

    hehe. 2 likeminded queers think alike…

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