On Monday November 7, we buried my grandmother, Mary, my darling girl. That night I went to Philadelphia to see the Clintons and the Obamas at the huge rally in Independence Square. Bruce Springsteen. Bon Jovi. In the press scrum – I was writing about Hillary for Salon – we were laughing and cheering. President Obama was talking about the continuation of his legacy. Hillary was smiling wide and her supporters literally danced their way out of the rally to the tunes of her theme song, Katy Perry’s “Roar.” On Tuesday Trump was elected. On Wednesday in New York City, after being up all night crying, I watched Hillary give her concession speech. On Wednesday evening, I called Sarah Sandman and said, “I want to start a magazine, we have to do more than tell people art will save us. I’ve been hearing that from writer friends all day. Art will not save us all by itself. Art plus registering voters and voting and all forms of activism might. Let’s have literature and revolution.” I might have been crying then. My gran was gone, Hillary had lost, I was exhausted, I’d been out on the trail for Hillary with my mother for the days after my grandmother’s death before her funeral. I needed a bed and several stiff drinks. “I want to start a magazine, but I can’t do it by myself. So if you say yes, ok. If you say no, I’ll do something else with all this sadness and fear and anger.” She said yes. Immediately. And so, Roar was born.
My grandmother was a lifelong reader, a feminist, deeply concerned with the treatment of the economically disadvantaged, workers, and civil rights. She taught adults who had been incarcerated to read, took up Spanish in her 60’s in hopes of forming stronger connections with immigrants, took a homeless woman from Africa in to live with her in her 80’s. She was true. When she was a child, after her mother’s death at the start of the great depression, she went to an orphanage for years and then was raised in part by an African-American maid, Sophie, her lifelong friend. She was greatly influenced by the poverty she had known, by Sophie, by activist nuns. She wanted her children and grandchildren to be happy and to be kind and to live lives of service and she was proud that all 12 of us had.
She left me a very small sum of money when she died last November 1. I used it as part of the seed money to launch Roar, brought to you by feminists, to offer literature, to inspire revolution. They say the dreams of the grandmothers are realized by the granddaughters. Maybe. I hope. I’m as proud of Roar as anything I’ve ever done. I like to think my grandmother would be proud of Roar, too. It is her legacy.
What will your legacy of this time be?