Recent Must Reads: A Weekly Roundup

In the late fall of 2006, I had never heard the term “comfort women.” My colleague Vanessa Diana informed me that two Comfort Women would be visiting our campus in Western Massachusetts during February 2016, and asked if I would be interested in teaching a novel on the subject to my Honors English Students. Although I understood rape has always been an aspect of war, still I was shocked to hear Vanessa’s description of young women and girls forced into sex slavery for Japanese soldiers from 1932-1945. Some girls were sold to comfort stations, others were recruited under false pretenses, and many were kidnapped and transported to comfort stations. The girls and women came from South Korea; their estimated numbers are between 50,000 and 200,000.

Nora Okja Keller’s novel “Comfort Woman” tells the haunting tale of the relationship between a daughter and her mother who still struggles with the PTSD of life as a former comfort woman in Japan. For my students at Westfield State University, the book was an effective introduction to understanding the history and the emotional fallout of systematic, government- sanctioned rape as it played out in the lives of a comfort woman and her frustrated daughter. When comfort women Ms Ok Sun Kim and Ms. Yong Soo Lee entered the auditorium at Westfield State for a presentation and panel, the room of hundreds of students and faculty was hushed. A reverence vibrated. As the two women, in their 80s, shared their stories, emotions in the audience ran high. The women told how they’d been tricked by officials, under the pretense of being given good jobs in Japan, of being forced away from family both at the age of 15, and how their family members disowned them when they tried to return. Perhaps most amazing, to me, was the level of joy and love the women shared with students, despite the clear grief and shame they still carried.

The two inspired everyone in the auditorium with their story of Resistance. In order to raise awareness of “comfort women”, and in hopes of receiving reparations and public apology from the Japanese government, the surviving comfort women in South Korea began a protest every Wednesday at noon outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. It has continued for 25 years. The women are joined by other supporters in their weekly demonstrations. A video has been released this week which shows fearful comfort women with Japanese soldiers. To learn more, see the article from International Business Times below.

Also this week, I have complied news stories on immigration, climate and environmental concerns, and a hate crime in which a white man followed a black Muslim couple for 20 blocks, shouting racial slurs. Due to the high rates of rape and sexual assaults at music festivals in Sweden, a new festival is being designed for female indentifying people only. And it appears, according to an article in The New York Times, that millennial migrants are moving South; they find that racism is everywhere, but lower real estate prices exist in the South.

So, for these and other stories, please Read On!! Your comments are always welcome.


  1. A result is that, for the most part, the only people weathering those consequences are the ones who don’t have the luxury of staying quiet. Women, already impeded and imperiled by sexism, also have to carry the social stigma of being feminist buzzkills if they call attention to it. People of color not only have to deal with racism; they also have to deal with white people labeling them “angry” or “hostile” or “difficult” for objecting.
“Real Men Might Get Made Fun Of”/ by Lindy West/ New York Times/ July 12, 2017


2. Queer people live their everyday lives under the threat of violence and political persecution. Queer teens would rather die than continue living in a world that is actively hostile to them. Our narratives must remain alive and vital to that pain, to the very real suffering we endure. To assume a central queer gaze is not to pass judgement on narratives of queer suffering at all, but to allow queer people to continue to tell their stories, to write into their own narrative spaces without the need for a heteronormative overculture. After all, it is the heteronormative gaze that renders these narratives problematic. It is their place of prominence in the overculture that presents the problem, not the narratives themselves.
“The Uncertain State of Queer Narratives”/ by Brandon Taylor/ LitHub/ July 11, 2017


3. Japan is accused of forcing tens of thousands of women into sexual slavery for its military from the early 1930s to the end of the Second World War. It was known to be one of the biggest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century. The atrocity has remained a source of pain for the victims and is still sparking diplomatic tensions between South Korea and Japan.
“Comfort women: Rare footage of Korean victims of Japan’s sex slavery emerges after 73 years”/ by Nandini Krishnamoorthy/ International Business Times/ July 6, 2017


4. Advocates of Alaska’s House Bill 73 and Senate Bill 112 say that police catching sex workers in the act by engaging with them sexually is a human rights violation, and Amnesty International has made an official statement supporting that claim: “Such conduct is an abuse of authority and in some instances amounts to rape and/or entrapment.”
“Alaska Cops Defend Their ‘Right’ to Sexual Contact With Sex Workers Before Arresting Them”/ by Lilly Dancyger/ Glamour / July 10, 2017


5. The government of the United States is a shambles. An incompetent administration headed by an unqualified buffoon is now descending into criminal comedy and maladroit backstabbing. It is an administration that not only self-destructs, but glories in the process. There seems to be no end to it, and no desire to end it by the people who actually have the power to do so. That, in itself, seems curious, and it probably should remind us all that Paul Ryan’s Super PAC was hip-deep in the borscht itself. Ryan, who really is the person best situated to close the circus down, seems to be afflicted with one of his periodic bouts of invisibility, poor lad.
“How Much More Absurdity Can You Handle?”/ by Charles P. Pierce/ Esquire/ July 11, 2017


6. “President Trump has claimed that his immigration policies would target the ‘bad hombres,'” Reinhardt said. “The government decision in the immigration case shows that even the ‘good hombres’ are not safe.”
“Coffee Farmer in Hawaii Loses Deportation Battle, Returns to Mexico”/ by Chelsea Bailey/ NBC News/ July 8, 2017


7. Last night I wanted to call my mother. I googled her, but she had no results. She has been dead for eight years. If I had been able to reach her, I would have asked if she had ever faked an orgasm. I find it relatively easy to do and sometimes preferable to waiting. I might not have told her it makes me sad that Andrew cannot tell the difference, and slightly relieved that the work is done, that I can return into myself.
“From the Abuse Survivor’s Workbook/ by Arielle Robbins/ Catapult/ March 10, 2017


8. This South where history looms large, filled with Confederate flags and songs of Dixie, isn’t the South black millennials are flocking to. Perhaps that, too, is part of my Northern elite imagination, or just a tired stereotype. Instead, they are headed to a modern, progressive South brimming with black politicians and business executives, a formidable black activism scene and black middle-class suburbs.
“Racism is Everywhere so Why Not Move South”/ by Reniqua Allen/ New York Times/ July 8, 2017


9. It was announced on Saturday that Bråvalla, Sweden’s largest one, would not be taking place in 2018 after police received reports of four rapes and 23 sexual assaults at this year’s event.
“Swedish music festival to be female-only ‘until all men learn how to behave Themselves’”/ by Christopher Hooton/ Independent/ July 5, 2017


10. In 2016, youth under 25 accounted for 31 percent of the overall homeless population. In addition to LGBT teens and those aging out of foster care, a recent study identified a more surprising subgroup of unhoused kids: community college students. Many lack sufficient financial aid and are earning poverty wages. A full 13 percent leave class with nowhere to go.
“How the Homeless Create Homes”/ by Susan Fraiman/ Salon/ July 8, 2017


11. Sorrell is accused of driving next to the couple for more than 20 blocks (seriously, that shit is frightening) and attempting to hit their vehicle several times while shouting, “Take off the fucking burka, this is America; go back to your fucking country,” and mimicking firing a handgun, according to the Oregon Committee of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“Ore. Man Who Followed Black Muslim Couple for 20 Blocks and Hurled Slurs Bursts Into Tears After Being Charged With Hate Crime”/ by Breanna Edwards/ The Root/ July 13, 2017


12. Eco wrote that fascism, rooted in traditionalism, is also rooted in an aristocratic belief in the superiority of one people over another. And so, what it offers to its followers is a “mass elitism” in which “every citizen belongs to the best people of the world,” but also one in which the “Leader … knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve such a ruler.”
 “Umberto Eco on Donald Trump: 14 Ways of Looking at a Fascist”/ by Lorraine Berry/ LitHub/ February 29, 2016


13. We are all connected. The rivers and streams and tiny creeks wind through the city and go on winding. They twist and bend and run backward on themselves, changing course and direction a thousand times over the ages. The water swells and leaves its banks with the seasons, swells into the streets we build, and our backyards and gardens, into the places we never think of because we do not want to see them: our landfills, our factories, our toxic dumps, all of the remote places we send our worst creations. There is no fence to keep it all out. The disaster that approaches is ourselves.
“The Fallout”/ by Lacy M. Johnson/ Guernica/ July 10, 2017


14. The Project MIDAS group said Wednesday that the effect of the break is to shrink the size of the floating Larsen C ice shelf by 12 percent. While they can’t be certain, they’re concerned that this could have a destabilizing effect on the remainder of the shelf, which is among Antarctica’s largest.
“One of the Biggest Icebergs in Recorded History Just Broke Loose from Antarctica”/ by Chris Mooney/ Washington Post/ July 12, 2017



Joyce Hayden left her university teaching job two years ago in order to pursue her own artistic work. An assemblage artist, painter, and writer, Joyce is currently in the process of acquiring an agent to represent her memoir, The Out of Body Girl, which describes her 8 year relationship with a charismatic gambler and the dangerous road that eventually led to her freedom. Her chapbook of poems, Lost Handprint, is forthcoming from Dandelion Review. A freelance editor and writing coach, Joyce’s writing services and a selection of her artwork can be found at her website Joyce is available for commission art work, including celebration shrines for loved ones and pets.

One Reply to “Recent Must Reads: A Weekly Roundup”

  1. Joyce, How exciting and inspirational it must have been for you and your students to meet those brave Comfort POW’s! What a gift that they shared their lives with so many. Thanks for sharing yourself. My week is always made better by your writing and ROAR!

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