Recent Must Reads: A Weekly Roundup

TWO PICTURES/TWO REFLECTIONS/TWO ETERNITIES

October, heads of daisies dangle black and dead,
landscape dispossessed. As a girl she was wind, wraith
and fog. She owned nothing. Her body controlled by strangers
who marked it. Hollow as the prickly shells of chestnuts.

Where to begin the story of how stone became river?
You can’t track a crow. But you can look at the snapshot
of the girl in 1971, tall, thin body, long bangs covering
half her face, her head downcast, refusing to give eyes
to the photographer. You know the quicksand
and concrete she moves between.

Then look at the picture from twenty years later.
Same blonde hair, bangs cut straight above the eyebrows.
She leans full against the fat branches she’s climbed.
Hands clasped behind her head, her bare feet crossed
at the ankles. You can’t help but wear her smile, can’t help
but see the long stretch of highway between 1971 and now.

October gives way to January, and May and along the way
our girl learns to bury regret like fall bulbs. A North wind carries
Joni Mitchell Blue out the window of the stone house where she
hums on hands and knees, covering a hundred solid hearts of iris.

(from Lost Handprint, Dandelion Press, 2017)

A writing prompt in a weekly workshop years ago led to this poem. Our guide, Genie Zeiger, at the top of Patton Hill in Shelburne MA, one windy, snowy day, asked us to visualize a photograph and begin our writing with the phrase, “In this one, I…” OR “In this one, she…” Two photos popped into my mind. The first was taken at Gilbert Lake on a July day when my family rented a cabin for a week’s vacation. About three hours after the photo was taken, I was molested by an uncle inside the cabin. The second photo was taken many years later, after I’d left an abusive relationship, after I’d begun my journey to healing and was leading writing groups for other survivors of rape and abuse. I was with friends near a grotto and I’d climbed a thick- branched apple tree. I felt truly free, fully trusting in the new life I was creating.

But the problem is, those feelings of confidence and happiness, of grounded-ness and faith, appear and disappear and re-appear with a will of their own. That day, in that tree, I was whole. The child-me, the girl who couldn’t speak up or tell the truth, was at peace, had forgiven. Though I didn’t realize it that day, that girl, the terrified and shamed and angry girl, still moved inside my body. As Diana Nyad states in her recent op-ed regarding her sexual assault, “I admit to wondering whether I will ever entirely heal that young girl who was pinned down.”

In the 90’s when I was working with a counselor on my history of rape and abuse, she told me about 5 and 6 year old children she worked with who had been molested. She explained that these young kids didn’t feel the shame that I’d worn like skin for decades. She said they told their stories, discussed their feelings and the circumstances, and then were ready to go play jump rope. They didn’t hold abuse like a secret. They didn’t harbor guilt and remorse. I grew up wanting, as Nyad says, “to be anywhere but here, anybody but me.” But it doesn’t have to be that way in the future. Nyad challenges us to “prepare coming generations to speak up in the moment, rather than be coerced into years of mute helplessness.”

A tide is turning. In her article in The Week, Lili Loofbourow warns of the coming backlash of women speaking out. She argues that the backlash is a pattern we should expect. But whether that backlash comes or not, this is the point where we have to lay shame and silence aside. This is a moment in history, a moment of kairos: the crucial time and place that creates the opportune atmosphere for Action, Words, and Movement. Let’s listen to all the voices that have been raised and to Nyad who ends her piece: “Tell your story. Let us never again be silenced.”

I’ve chosen a lot of articles this week, because there’s been a lot happening in both the government and private sector. The New Yorker offers up a beautiful piece this week by Danielle Geller called, “Annotating the First Page of the First Navajo-English Dictionary.” Don’t skip over it. Miscarriages are at an all time high in Flint; candidates from the trans and queer communities have been elected to important offices; Puerto Rico is still struggling in the dark; and over two dozen women and girls were found dead off the coast of Italy. In addition, I’ve included a piece from the Rumpus in which editors have contributed to the conversation of sexual assault; Alex Chee’s article on Kevin Spacey; Laurie Penny’s popular piece on the male response to women speaking out; and Catherine Savini’s essay in which she takes responsibility for white privilege during her pregnancy experience. Rumpus editor, Marisa Siegel, says it best: “Enough: The Conversation is Just Beginning”!

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


  1. Tuesday night was historic. Amid high turnout across Virginia, New Jersey, Washington, and elsewhere, voters elected a range of progressive candidates, many whose victories signify the first time queer and transgender people, communities of color, and religious minorities will be represented in office.
“10 Candidates that Made History on November 7, 2017”/ by E.A.Crunden/ Think Progress/ November 8, 2017

 


2. The resistance is poised to have a lot of staying power in part because it is covering so much ground, which is necessary when the common enemy is exacting daily, sometimes hourly attacks that “anger, upset or offend people,” says Karla Mastracchio, Ph.D., a professor of government specializing in political rhetoric and social movements at the University of South Florida. “What you’re resisting is constantly changing because the administration is unstable, so the target is always moving.”
“The Resistance to Trump is More Fierce and Unstoppable Than Ever”/ by Jordan E. Rosenfeld/ DAME/ November 8, 2017

 


3. You don’t have to factor in the Russian intervention or the Trump team’s collusion to regard the election as fatally corrupted. But while the corruption of the voting system seems to have been an achievement of Republican strategists working for decades, the unprecedented role of a foreign government does give an entirely different basis to regard it as illegitimate. As we learn more about the latter, it behooves us not to forget the former, which is as grave a blow to the credibility of the election.
“One Year On, Donald Trump is Still an Illegitimate President”/ by Rebecca Solnit/ The Guardian/ November 8, 2017

 


4. Even when men are killing strangers, there is often a history of domestic violence behind the events. According to an extensive analysis of the Washington State criminal justice system, a domestic violence felony conviction is the strongest predictor of male-perpetrated violent crime. Men who feel free to hurt the people they know develop a sense of entitlement to hurt those they don’t.
“America’s Mass Shooting Problem is a Domestic Violence Problem”/ by Soraya Chemaly/ Village Voice/ November 8, 2017

 


5. Many of Puerto Rico’s existing problems — its $72 billion municipal bond debt, archaic and brittle electrical energy infrastructure and health care collapse — have accelerated in a scary fashion because of the hurricane. While hundreds of thousands are predicted to move to the mainland United States, there are many who can’t or won’t, and they are holding on tightly to a tradition of community-based acts of survival. Listening to those stories of survival, told in the particular singsong that characterizes the island accent, resonated with me as if they were my own.
“Puerto Rico in the Dark”/ by Ed Morales/ New York Times/ November 4, 2017

 


6. The gruesome discovery Sunday of the bodies of more than two dozen migrant girls in the Mediterranean Sea has left Italian officials wondering whether the girls were purposely killed, and why all who died were female.
“26 Teenage Girls Were Found Dead at Sea. Italian Officials Wonder if They Were Killed.”/ by Marwa Eltagouri/ Washington Post/ November 7, 2017

 


7. Less than a year after that trial, Mark shot and killed Lydia through her bedroom window. He was trying to evade paying the back child support and property money he owed her. Just days before he killed her, his vehicle had been repossessed and they found a 12-gauge shotgun in the car. It seemed like kismet, an intervention of the universe to save her. But the gun was returned to him. He was not questioned at all despite the fact that he had warned Lydia again and again that he would “blow her fucking head off.”
“Why We Must Believe Women: My Family’s Legacy of Violence and Murder”/ by Chelsea Bieker/ Catapult/ November 6, 2017

 


8. We already owed Anthony Rapp a debt of gratitude for his role as a pioneer, coming out in the ’90s, when queer people were not considered politically convenient. He is once again taking a bold stand as he comes forward with this story. Whenever I saw his face this week, I kept thinking of what it would be like to finally confront someone, to have thought about the assault, all this time, to have worked to overcome it, and then to have that person apologize so quickly but say he didn’t remember it. To be erased twice — in the assault and then in the apology.
“What Do We Owe Kevin Spacey?”/ by Alexander Chee/ them./ November 5, 2017

 


9. At the time of sharing these stories, I was not thinking about my whiteness or the whiteness of the crowd, but one week after I participated in this jokey conversation about how pregnant women should just get a pass, I read “The Violent Policing of Black Motherhood.” This excerpt from Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie tells the stories of 9 pregnant women of color who have been pulled over for small violations such as speeding and then Tased with 50,000 volts of electricity, beaten, and/or denied medical help. In some instances these women miscarried.
“Pregnant While White”/ by Catherine Savini/ MotherShould?/ November 6, 2017

 


10. Yes, the backlash will come. But when it does, here is my plea to you: Allow yourself to push beyond the impulse that will strike you to shrug and throw up your hands, announcing that truth is unknowable. Realize that it is not, in fact, more “logical” or reasonable to dismiss dozens or hundreds of cases of harassment merely because one account was disproved.
“The Sexual Assault Backlash is Coming. Here’s How to Respond.”/ by Lili Loofbourow/ The Week/ November 3, 2017

 


11. “The bottom line about the Bundy standoff is that a large number of people in the militia movement pointed scoped semi-automatic weapons at the heads of law enforcement officials and ultimately forced them to back down,” Southern Poverty Law Center Senior Fellow Mark Potok commented to the Retro Report section of The New York Times, an online documentary series. “It made people feel that you could win against the federal government, and you needed to do it with a gun.”
“Cowboy or Terrorist? Harney County and the Trump Presidency”/ by Nora Brooks/ The Rumpus/ November 6, 2017

 


12. Unfortunately, we are in one of those rare and curious moments where we have to do something unfair and hurtful in order to answer decades of pain and injustice. We didn’t want to have to make an example of anyone. We tried to ask nicely for our humanity and dignity. We tried to put it gently. Nobody gave a shit. Now that there are consequences, now that there is finally, for once, some sort of price to pay for treating women like interchangeable pieces of flesh and calling it romance, you’re paying attention.
“The Unforgiving Minute”/ by Laurie Penny/ Longreads/ November 7, 2017

 


13. THIS SECTION MIGHT GET MESSY: because I’m writing it by hand, in pen, in my notebook, as I sit in a waiting room, in line to take a test called Ovarian Reserve Fertility, to see how many eggs are left in my ovaries, how many bullets are left in my barrel, if any at all, my fingers, they’re sweating, gripping the pen, and I never would’ve imagined, back then, when I worked at the shelter, when the woman cursed my supposed-someday-future-pregnancy, that I would find myself here today, fifteen years later, wondering when don’t you want to have kids shifted into why did you decide not to have any kids, wondering when I began to feel like my uterus is part of some not-so-secret demographic war, wondering why it is that I refer to my own body in militaristic terms at all.
“Holy Mother Monster City”/ by Amital Stern/ Corporeal Writing/ November 7, 2017

 


14. The answer is, in many ways, unknowable; for our mothers, the surest protection from the past was to spin truths and falsehoods into one story, one thread, impossible to distinguish in the weave.
“Annotating the First Page of the First Navajo-English Dictionary”/ By Danielle Geller/ The New Yorker/ November 7, 2017

 


15. Porch window, watching my fist shatter its glass, watching glass fall into and around. A window so actual and theoretical that in effect we are always discussing its implications, whatever the setting, wherever the scene.
“Enough: The Conversation is Just Beginning”/ by Various Rumpus Editors/ The Rumpus/ November 7, 2017

 


16. An interviewer once asked me, as many do, “Where did your confidence, your iron will come from?” That person didn’t know that just hours earlier the same day, I’d flown into an uncontrollable self-rage. Approaching my door, clutching several bags of groceries, I’d fumbled with the keys, lost hold of the bags and started a self-destructive rant as apples rolled down the driveway. The same words the coach had used while molesting me came screaming out at me, from my own mouth. “You little bitch!” “You worthless little ….” That wounded young person inside believes, on some cellular level, that these words sum up exactly who I am at the core.
“Diana Nyad: My Life After Sexual Assault”/ by Diana Nyad/ New York Times/ November 9, 2017

 


17. “There have been far too many miscarriages to count,” local activist Melissa Mays told Rewire. “It’s sad because we have no idea what the heavy metals, carcinogenic byproducts, bacteria, and whatever else we have been, and are still being, exposed to has done to our bodies. Will our sons have low sperm counts? How many young girls will not be able to become mothers because their eggs are poisoned? We just don’t know, and the State of Michigan just wants to sweep it all under the rug like it’s all in the past.”
“Miscarriages in Flint: ‘I Really Believe It’s the Water’ ”/ by Auditi Guha/ Rewire/ November 3, 2017

 


18. I think that the liberation of women’s bodies has to be the liberation of all bodies. And we cannot talk about liberating women’s bodies without acknowledging and incorporating the issues that trans people face, so I’d like to think the two are intrinsically tied. Many of the issues are very much the same. For many trans people, there is the need to have the outside match the inside—and what kind of outside do you want? Are you going to go for the representations that we’ve seen that have been mass reproduced and are unhealthy, or are you going to go for something different. And if it’s something different, what does that difference look like?
“Five Things Roxane Gay Taught Us About Reclaiming The Female Body”/ by Jane Gayduk/ Interview Magazine/ November 7, 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 joycehayden.com. Joyce is available for commission art work, including celebration shrines for loved ones and pets.

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