Recent Must Reads: A Weekly Roundup

1. When you awake, you know something’s wrong. You pull the sheet down. Hoist yourself to a sitting position. Thick red blood, nearly black, clots in clumps. Reach for the phone. Call the doctor’s assistant. Call for Kevin. Remember him kissing you goodbye, hours earlier. Sleepwalk to the truck, to the waiting room. Stare out the window onto Main Street. Don’t sob. Don’t wail. Don’t acknowledge your relief. Forget every word the assistant has said. Go home and wrap yourself in the bloody sheets of your never to be daughter.

2. She said not to worry. She said this was common. Remind yourself you’ve never met anyone who’s been through it. As usual, it’s only you. You’re alone. All that blood. You didn’t know what to do. As the nurse practitioner explained the next steps, the D & C another doctor would have to perform, the abortionist who would would no longer be needed, you were far away, gazing out onto Main Street. The brick buildings. You were headed north in your mind. To the White Mountains or Montreal maybe. You saw yourself starting over. You and your dream baby that, instead of pooling in black blood on the bed sheet, had miraculously lived.

3. He’d found you there in bed, sheets and quilt up to your chin on a hot August night, 8pm, shades drawn. He asked what you were looking for in the phone book. You didn’t want to tell him. But six weeks had passed, and there was no ground for you to walk on. Six weeks of grief and relief and guilt and self-hatred and canyons too deep to wander out of, the struggle epic as Hades and Zeus battling for territory up on Olympus. Thunderbolts, avalanches, fire and flood. And all of it inside you ever since the blood came, and before you even opened your eyes, you knew she was gone. You knew the girl inside you had fled, melting deep dark red onto the faded white sheets. And now you wanted her, wanted her back, wanted to see her grow inside you, to hold her in the knitted blankets you know your mother and sister would have made her. Six weeks of thrashing sleep, of huddling fetal in the early mornings on Pratt’s dock across the road at the lake, six weeks of the dog shadowing you, the dog at your heels. This was sentry dog, protector. And so the Yellow Pages, and he asks and you tell him and then hands, those hands you remember sliding slick and soft through your silken hair, the hands calloused from sanding basswood leaf fairies. And then those same hands knotted in fists come at you, open to grab your biceps, his face glowing from pink to the deep red of stop signs and you’re up now mid air, he’s shaking you and you’re crying, and you want him to disappear, you want your not-yet baby in your hands but you stare at his lips, the room, or the world, you can’t distinguish, has gone silent as if a wall of ocean, of furious white noise stands invisibly between you and him because his lips are moving, specks of his spit hit your cheek, and then the dam breaks. And he’s yelling, YOU HEAR ME?? IF YOU WANT TO TALK TO SOMEONE IT WILL HAVE TO BE ME and he flings your body back on the bed and you want to flow hot and thick and red into the sheets and you want the black void, the abyss of silence to swallow you up, to take you to the place that holds all things that die too soon.

The above sections are excerpted from my memoir, The Out of Body Girl. When I was unexpectedly pregnant in 1980’s rural New Hampshire, living with an abusive man, I was told that if I wanted an abortion I could go to Vermont or Boston, but no one in New Hampshire performed the procedure. I was lucky: I had a car. I worked as a waitress in a local restaurant, so I had some money. But many women in my situation did not have access to either finances or transportation, which took a huge choice away from them.

Rebecca Solnit writes about reproductive rights and social justice in an article from Harper’s this week, and Lidia Yuknavitch discusses suffering and misfits. Both themes resonate with my pregnancy. I had scheduled an abortion in Vermont, but miscarried before the surgery was necessary. I carried my sadness alone; I told no one about my pregnancy and I struggled with the realization that I would abort a baby before birthing her into the unsafe environment I lived in. I saw myself as an outcast and a misfit; to be honest, I always had. But hiding this secret compounded my feelings of isolation.

While we continue to fight sexual harassment and domestic violence, we must also continue the on going war against women’s bodies and women’s reproductive choices. This week an undocumented teen was finally allowed to receive the abortion she wanted, despite government officials relentlessly attempting to persuade her otherwise.

In other stories this week Puerto Rico is still struggling; the disabled community continues to be involved in health care protests; and several teen girls from Nigeria who had been wired with explosives after being kidnapped, discuss their refusal to detonate themselves, as their captors demanded. A powerful essay in The Paris Review braids themes of black bodies, white supremacy, the life and work of Basquait, police brutality, and the author’s meditation on anatomy.

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

 


  1. It is not just water and electricity that are in scarce supply. Cellphone service ranges from spotty to nonexistent. Cars are damaged and roads blocked. For many, work and school still have not resumed, so they wander the streets, play board games and sit around telling stories by candlelight.
“’Like Going Back in Time’: Puerto Ricans Put Survival Skills to Use”/ by Caitlin Dickerson and Luis Ferre-Sadurni/ New York Times/ October 24, 2017

 


2. The upshot: It’s safe to say that for every domestic-violent murder that makes national news—whether because of its brutal nature, victim tally, school setting, or something else—there are hundreds of small incidents in our own backyards that barely receive coverage. Often, when a domestic incident or murder-suicide occurs in a community, officials reassure the public that no one else is in danger and the matter quickly fades. But what are the dangers of ignoring a national conversation about the high number of murders of “estranged” wives and girlfriends each year, especially when federally funded agencies and organizations estimate that more than 1,000 women are killed annually by someone they know? That total doesn’t include the children, relatives, and bystanders who suffer or are killed as well. (A Dallas Morning News story about the Plano mass shooting in September noted that in 2015, 158 women in Texas were murdered by an intimate partner, climbing steadily from 102 women in 2011. And those 158 murders claimed 19 collateral victims.)
“Men are Killing Thousands of Women a Year for Saying No”/ by Caren Lissner/ DAME/ October 24, 2017

 


3. Being openly (read: visibly/aesthetically/recognizably) queer is like having a superpower. Without exchanging a single word, I can recognize people’s deepest darkest fears. I know their insecurities. I can see their trauma, their shame, their anger, their desire, their fear. The ability to see people in this way is both terrifying and empowering. Some days, this knowing feels like magic. Some days, it feels like a heavy thing I want to put down.
“Having a Genderqueer Partner”/ by Jamila Reddy/ Zine/ October 23, 2017

 


4. It was an audacious strategy—all the more so in a world where the disabled are openly mocked by the man who’s now the president of the United States. But it worked. Dozens of hard-core disabled activists, moved into action by the national organization ADAPT, slept at the Hart for a week in July and then, of course, jammed up the hallways in September as the Graham-Cassidy proposal seemed set to sweep the Senate.
“In the Fight to Save Health Care, the Heroes Ride on Wheelchairs—and Wear Pink”/ by Jennifer Flynn/ The Nation/ October 23, 2017

 


5. Sexual abuse is a consistent and pervasive feature of the modern workforce, but despite how consistent and pervasive harassment is, there is scant data and public information about it. Women tend to keep the knowledge of such incidents to themselves, for one. They more often than not do not report them, due to a fear of not being believed, a sexist culture in the workplace, a belief that nothing would happen or change, and reasonable concerns about retaliation. Indeed, they themselves often seem to forget these incidents or shut them out: The share of women who report being harassed increases if they are prompted to recall specific behaviors, like unwanted touching. It stands to reason that a given individual might not say she was sexually harassed, but could easily recount an incident in which a supervisor propositioned her or a customer assaulted her.
“The Inequality Beneath the Sexual-Harassment Headlines”/ by Annie Lowrey/ The Atlantic/ October 26, 2017

 


6. Early on in Basquiat’s career, a young, black aspiring artist and model named Michael Stewart was caught drawing the words “Pir Nema Pir Nema” on the subway. The NYPD allegedly used his face to break the window of a patrol car. He was beaten and strangled, went into a coma and later died. Basquiat’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, Suzanne Mallouk, was close friends with Stewart and covertly photographed every wound on his body in the hospital. She helped his family bring his case to court. When Basquiat found out what had happened to someone so like himself, a beautiful black artist who’d scribbled on the city’s surfaces, he drew black skulls all night. He made a painting called Defacement.
“On Basquiat, the Black Body, and a Strange Sensation in My Neck”/ by Aisha Sabatini Sloan/ The Paris Review/ October 26, 2017

 


7. I feel kindred with fellow sufferers, not because they suffer, and not because of some absurd vortex of victimhood camaraderie, and not because sufferers are in a state of grace, but because they go on, they endure. And because sometimes, the sufferer reinvents themself — and this kind of reinvention is what misfits are so good at. Misfits not only know a great deal about alternate and varied definitions of suffering, but misfits are also capable of alchemizing suffering, changing the energy from one form to another.
“It’s a Myth That Suffering Makes You Stronger”/ by Lidia Yuknavitch/ TED/ October 24, 2017

 


8. No one should be shamed for making the right decision for themselves. I would not tell any other girl in my situation what they should do. That decision is hers and hers alone.I’ve been waiting for more than a month since I made my decision. It has been very difficult to wait in the shelter for news that the judges in Washington, D.C. have given me permission to proceed with my decision. I am grateful for this, and I ask that the government accept it. Please stop delaying my decision any longer.My lawyers have told me that people around the country have been calling and writing to show support for me. I am touched by this show of love from people I may never know and from a country I am just beginning to know – to all of you, thank you.This is my life, my decision. I want a better future. I want justice.
“Undocumented Teen in Texas Finally Gets an Abortion After Monthlong Legal Battle”/ by Molly McLaughlin/ BUST/ October 25, 2017

 


9. This year, in an effort to appeal to a more conservative demographic, some Democrats went so far as to slacken their commitment to reproductive rights, dismissing them as “identity politics” and deeming them less important than economic justice. As many women have pointed out, however, such a stance constitutes a failure to understand that until and unless this half of the population can control their bodies and plan their families, they cannot be economically equal. The question is one of both strategy and principle: Do you win by chasing those who don’t share your views, or by serving and respecting those already with you? Is the purpose of the choir to sing to the infidels or inspire the faithful? What happens if the faithful stop showing up, donating, doing the work?
“Preaching to the Choir”/ by Rebecca Solnit/ Harper’s/ October 26, 2017

 


10 For these girls and others, even approaching the authorities to ask for help was exceedingly dangerous. Soldiers and civilians at checkpoints are on high alert for anyone suspicious – and usually that means any woman or girl, most of whom wear long head scarves and garments that could cover an explosive belt. In just the last three months of 2016, the United Nations says, 13 children from 11 to 17 years old were killed after they were wrongly thought to be suicide bombers.
“Boko Haram Strapped Suicide Bombs to Them. Somehow These Teenage Girls Survived”/ by Dionne Searcey/ New York Times/ October 25, 2017

 


11. “This is more fear-mongering by a corporate bully hoping to see what it can get away with in Trump’s America,” Leonard said. “These pipelines threaten human and sovereign rights, compromise drinking water that millions of people rely on, potentially contaminate people’s land and livelihoods, and create more climate-charged superstorms affecting vulnerable communities around the world.”
“Congressmen Push Jeff Sessions to Call Environmentalists Terrorists”/ by Alan Pyke/ Think Progress/October 24, 2017

 


12. Trump, though, is not a decent human being. He instead decided to pick a fight with three black women — each of them grieving — and soon enlisted his chief of staff to join this fight alongside him. Perhaps it plays well for their base, but what followed, in my opinion, is rooted in a white supremacist understanding of the truthfulness and veracity of black women and black pain.
“John Kelly’s Lies About Frederica Wilson Are Part of a Pattern of Not Believing Black Women”/ by Shaun King/ The Intercept/ October 21, 2017

 


13. It should both surprise and enrage you to learn that under New York state law, it is not illegal for a law enforcement official to have sex with someone in their custody—an action for which they cannot possibly provide consent. The little-known loophole for police is now coming to the attention of local public officials thanks to a disturbing rape case in which two NYPD officers admitted to having sex with a teenage girl in their custody. The teen (and many public officials) call that rape. New York state law, however, does not.
“It’s Still Technically Not Illegal for NYPD to have Sex with Someone in Custody”/ by Prachi Gupta/ Jezebel/ October 25, 2017

 


14. Crucially, de-growth does not mean we have to get rid of the stock of stuff that we already have, as a nation: houses, furniture, shoes, museums, railways, whatever. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that we have to stop producing and consuming new stuff. It just means we have to reduce the amount of new stuff that we produce and consume each year. When you see it this way, it’s really not so threatening. If we degrow by 5 per cent per year (which is what scientists say is necessary), that means we have to cut our consumption of new stuff by 5 per cent. It’s easy to make up for that by just repairing and reusing stuff we already have. And we can encourage this more creative approach to stuff by curbing advertising, like Sao Paulo, Chennai and other cities have done.
“There’s Only One Way to Avoid Climate Catastrophe: ‘De-Growing’ Our Economy”/ by Jason Hickel/ Resilience/ October 20, 2017

 


15. When we talk about the latest whitewashed historical film and the gross racism of its creators, we need to also talk about the lack of diverse writers, directors, and studio execs. We need to talk about the audiences who will see such films, rather than simply asking, “Where the brown people at?” We need to talk about the disparity in the purchasing power of potential audiences, which causes studios to prefer one group over another. We need to talk about the economic system that creates that disparity. We need to talk about the cultural hierarchy and the exclusivity of Whiteness that tells white audiences that they cannot relate to brown characters. We need to talk about why that may be true. We need to talk about the history books that lead people to believe that everything great in human history was created by Whiteness.
“When We Talk About Cultural Appropriation, We’re Missing the Point”/ by Ijeoma Oluo/ The Establishment/ February 9, 2016

 


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 joycehayden.com. Joyce is available for commission art work, including celebration shrines for loved ones and pets.

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