Monday, August 29, 2011

"The Help"

I enjoyed reading The Help, but I didn't love it. There was something about it, some niggling feeling inside me, that objected. Maybe it was simply my objection to a white woman (the author, Kathryn Stockett) presuming to speak for black women, as many others have said. Or maybe, and this is a small distinction, it was an objection to a white protagonist as hero to those poor black women.

Now, of course, the novel has been made into a movie (some writers have all the luck!) and so there is a fresh batch of reviews of this story. Today in the New York Times, a criticism that rings true for me. Patricia A. Turner (a black woman) wrote a piece called "Dangerous White Stereotypes" that gets it right. Ms. Turner didn't hate the story either. But she put her finger on what was missing, and therefore how "The Help" can be misleading. In short, "The Help" portrays a group of unsavory white women treating their help badly. As Ms. Turner so perceptively points out...

"To suggest that bad people were racist implies that good people were not. Jim Crow segregation survived long into the 20th century because it was kept alive by white Southerners with value systems and personalities we would applaud... In Jackson and other bastions of the Jim Crow South, the pervasive notion, among poor whites and rich, that blacks were unworthy of full citizenship was as unquestioned as the sanctity of church on Sunday. “The Help” tells a compelling and gripping story, but it fails to tell that one."

Read the book, see the movie (I plan to), just keep a clear eye. And let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

a voice of reason - Charles M. Blow

Once again Charles M. Blow hits the nail on the head in his NYT piece "Failing Forward." He is afraid for the children of our country, and for all of us, in light of the new gaggle of religious extremist who are vying to become our next president. Even if the term "pro-choice" makes you a little queasy, as it does me, I simply cannot see how Blow's argument in support of our society's greater good can be rationally countered. Here is an excerpt...

"We simply can’t keep turning to pills and prisons to solve issues of poverty and poor parenting. This is unhealthy, unsustainable and unwise.

We have to do a better, more focused job of teaching sex education and providing contraceptive options (kudos here to the administration for moving this month to require insurance companies to provide birth control services to women at no extra cost). We have to remove the stigma and judgment around sex. Sex isn’t bad or unnatural. It’s one of the most natural things that we do. It just needs to be safe and responsible."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A little folk music

Lately, while driving around town I've been listening to 88.5 FM radio. Scott Reagan hosts a terrific weekday morning program. A couple days ago I heard a song performed by the lovely voice of Mollie O'Brien (accompanied by her husband Rich Moore on guitar). I'd never heard of either of them. Have you?

Just thought I'd share a couple of their songs with you here. The first (and the title of their CD) is called "Saints and Sinners" and was written by David Francey.

The other one I really like is called "Lonely for a While" . It was written by Jesse Winchester and is more jazzy than folky. But you decide. Let me know what you think!

Remembering Nora Bredes

I wish I had known Nora better, wish I could have claimed her as my close friend. We sometimes sat next to each other and chatted while watching our sons play soccer. She was a devoted fan of all three of her sons – on the soccer field and off. I can say that I once enjoyed a delicious soccer team dinner at her house and found her to be every bit the gracious host. But mostly I admired Nora from a distance, supporting her bid for a seat on our county legislature, listening intently when I heard her voice speaking eloquently on a radio talk show. She and I were facebook friends. We shared family photos and articles on women in politics, her greatest passion. I knew Nora was someone special. And I felt proud to know her. I only wish I had known her better.

Then yesterday I received a note from Nora’s husband Jack in which he shared the New York Times article about Nora chronicling her public life and untimely passing with reverence. I learned that Nora had run for Congress while living on Long Island and I reflected on what a brilliant Congresswoman she would have made. The NYT piece also described Nora’s incredible determination, hard work and ultimate success in shutting down an unsafe nuclear power plant on Long Island. What a huge achievement, one that I hadn’t even known of. I’m so glad that Nora came to live in Rochester to serve as the director of the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership at the University of Rochester. She was a powerful women’s advocate and a shining example in our community.

I grieve for her husband and sons. Their loss is truly immeasurable. But Nora has left behind – for them and for all of us – a most inspiring legacy. May her memory be for a blessing. Rest in peace, Nora.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Motherly Musings - a new collection of essays & poems on motherhood

Well, I'm a mom and a writer. So naturally I've written a few pieces on motherhood. Two of them (plus a photo of me with my daughter) were included in the new anthology Motherly Musings. Pictured above are a few of the contributors, gathered together for a book signing afternoon at The Lovin' Cup Bistro & Brews in Henrietta. Our book got a glowing review in the Philadelphia PA's! Hope you'll check it out!

Using my "blog" to blog!

Today I read a piece by David Brooks of the NYT that finally inspired me to blog. Here is the excerpt that inspired me...

Rye Barcott was a student at the University of North Carolina who spent a summer sharing a 10-by-10 shack in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya. One night he awoke with diarrhea and stumbled to the public outhouse. He slid onto the cement floor and vomited as his bare body hit puddles of human waste.

He left his soiled pants outside the hut, but when he went to find them later they were gone. He was directed to another hut where a stick-thin girl, with missing clumps of hair, had the pants, scrubbed and folded, in her lap. Barcott said softly, “I’m grateful,” and asked her why she had cleaned them. “Because I can,” she replied. A week later, she died of AIDS and her body was taken in a wheelbarrow to a communal grave.

You can read the entire essay here: