Reading, Review, Rumination
Now this is what I call ‘doing gender’. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez presents a thematic report on gender perspectives on torture. Yes, yes, yes.
“The new report assesses the applicability of the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in international law to the unique experiences of women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons. The report recognizes that historically, the torture and ill-treatment framework evolved largely in response to practices and situations that disproportionately affected men, and that the analysis largely largely failed to employ a gendered and intersectional lens or to account adequately for the impact of entrenched discrimination, patriarchal, heteronormative and discriminatory power structures and socialized gender stereotypes.”
After Sammy from James Kelman’s How late it was how late, Kid Coole aka Parnell Coole is the biggest love of my literary life. Sammy gave me my mantra. It has saved my life a couple of times, actually, as recently as yesterday. I had a burning head and a cold chest in a strange country, and the time difference meant that everybody I love was asleep and couldn’t talk me out of my affliction.
‘Ye’ve got to get up off yer arse. Especially when ye’re skint. Going to bed’s the easy option, trying to sleep away the shit, trying to hit limboland; but it’s no as if ye’ve got the flu; when ye’re skint man don’t mix it up with the fuckin’ flu, know what I mean, trying to hit limboland; ye’re no ill ye’re skint. So ye’ve got to get out there.’ Sammy/James Kelman ‘How late it was, how late (1994)
I want to marry Sammy, but I want to mother Kid, hold his head still and clean the blood out of his ears. Union Docs introduced me to the The Brooklyn Rail, and the BR introduced me to M.G. Stephens and his boy, Kid. “Parnell Coole is a quiet, even inarticulate person. Outside of boxing, he is not a particularly violent person, although he lives in a violent world.” Sometime, this past Spring, I was introduced to Kid. Kid was six and one, all wins by knockout. The loss was a lie. A mistake. Some guy named Blue Rivers from Schenectady or Troy. It didn’t matter one good shit where fuckn Blue Rivers came from. Kid would knock him out the next time they fought. He would not leave the decision to a bunch of bozo judges. And it’s been months, I’ve waited faithfully, for an update on Kid and his reckoning with this Blue Rivers. And this month’s edition of the BR, Kid finally gets to fight Blue Rivers again. And the way M.G. Stephens describes Blue, I almost fall out of love with Kid and in love with Blue Rivers. I can be fickle.
“Blue Rivers looked a little bit like Sugar Ray Robinson. His hair was conked. He was tall and thin, wiry and very muscular and strong. He had a big, radiant smile, and he swaggered. Easy in his bones. All street. Cock of the walk. If you could become a champion on looks, Blue Rivers was the man. Blue would be the unified lightweight champion of the world. He was handsome and stylish, and he looked like a fighter from another era, like the 1940s, when there were really great fighters. It was his demeanor, Billy Farts said. It was his demeanor that beat Kid Coole that first fight.”
And Kid starts their second fight all jittery and disobedient, he does it his way, and not the way Billy Farts in his corner tells him. He bleeds.He falls. He ‘staggers around‘. He can’t find his corner. His ‘head feels like dead.’
“Blue Rivers keeps hitting Kid Coole in those two places in Round Three. Blue wacks him there. Eyebrow / cheek. Cheek / eyebrow. Eyebrow. Cheek. Cheek. Eyebrow. Eyebrow. Eyebrow. Cheek.”
It’s enough to make me cry. And then Kid is crying. Because finally, he does what Billy Farts told him to do. “He put the motherfucker away with those two vicious body shots.” He is pumped up with adrenaline, he is booed by the crows, and Billy Faherty tells him off, tells him to change his “stinkn thinkn” and his “fuckn asshole tune.” It’s a beautiful moment, better than Polly and Rocky, better than Champ and baby Ricky Schroeder even. And then M.G. Stevens cuts it off. To be continued…
This is the third novel by M. G. Stephens in a series about the Coole family, and the Rail is proudly running Kid Coole as a serial over the next twelve issues.
Why haven’t I ordered the novel and ended my misery? Waiting a full month for more Kid kills me. Spreading out the magic, I guess. I don’t believe in buying books, that’s what public libraries are for, but once I read Round Twelve in the R, I’m going to buy this novel and read ROunds one to twelve in one long sip.
My Colorful column is reserved for colored girls, and Kid is a boxer, I imagine red thin hair and brown freckles and thin white skin that cuts and bleeds easily. But Kid is colored by Ralph Half-Dog, a barbecue on Muhammad Ali Way, tea with his boss Mr. Kim, and Mrs. Kim’s judgment. “Also, she wasn’t quite so sure that Kid Coole was white. He wasn’t exactly black. He certainly wasn’t Korean. But he didn’t seem white either.” And he’s a colored girl too. TBC…
The New York Time reports that Japan and Korea “have resolved one of the most intractable logjams in relations between South Korea and Japan.” An apology and cash. Justice for women whose truth is denied often looks like this. An apology and cash. A headline in Artforum reads ‘Nikon loses court battle against photographer over comfort women show. It also suggests that an apology and cash are forthcoming
South Korean photographer Ahn Se Hong has successfully sued Nikon, which canceled an exhibition featuring his photos of South Korean so-called “comfort women,” the euphemism for the sex slaves forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II, reports the Japan Times. Nikon, back in 2012, had consented to host the show in its galleries, but then had a change of heart. Now, according to a Tokyo District Court ruling from last Friday, Nikon will have to pay Ahn around ten thousand dollars in damages.”
I cried out to god when I read about Marie and how she was forced to recant her rape and persecuted and prosecuted for being a liar. It wasn’t rape, it was just a dream, she said. Apologies and cash were proffered. The Marshall Project‘s ‘An Unbelievable Story of Rape’ is its own form of justice.
Why couldn’t I finish this book? It was much more than a revulsion for the sensationalist reporting about men like the ‘Cleaveland kidnapper’ Ariel Castro and Austrian Josef Fritzl arouses. In the LARB, Sarah Blackwood captures my feelings so accurately: ‘Reader I hated it.’ She calls Room, misogynistic…and hers is the first review of the book I have felt close to. I don’t believe that every book, movie that lets the raped, beaten or otherwise downtrodden woman escape qualifies as a feminist fable. And I think neither does Blackwood.
“I find that it sustains some of our culture’s worst assumptions about the bonds between mother and child, and about the shame that attends female sexual violation. It reminds me of another debacle of failed progressive narrative: the 2004 movie Crash. Just as Crash was a racist exercise in trying to exorcise racism, Room is a misogynistic exploration of the suffering misogyny causes women. I’m just going to say it: Room is the Crash of feminism. I am sure the film is going to win multiple Oscars.”
The best ‘how to be’ manual I’ve come across. Thank you OOMK (One of My Kind) Zine for ‘How to be a badass Muslim female artist‘ , and ‘weaponise the internet’. I especially love the first tip : YOU ARE NOT A ‘PROBLEM’ You’ve grown up in a post-9/11 world and are daily reminded that every part of your Muslim existence is problematic. Self-appointed, as well as government appointed, saviours have taken it upon themselves to liberate you from your clothing, your parents, your God and your natural born inclinations to become a jihadi fighter or British bride living in an ISIS paradise. It’s time to learn about yourself and your religion away from the hype.
Akwaeke Emezi writes that ‘sometimes the fire is not the fire. sometimes it’s not everything that burns.’ Emezi’s childhood is that, a childhood that cannot be stolen by dead bodies on the street and police that fear vigilantes and armed gangs. She tells us about her Aba childhood not to shock and titillate or confirm the depravity and impossibility of African childhood but to show that the truth is not a story for an audience in Lagos, London, New York, etc. that wants to be shocked by the exotic. Rather her truth is in her gracious telling of how ‘they stayed children‘ and ‘how impressive it was that my parents kept their children as sheltered as they did in all the chaos of Aba…’
Gabrielle Bellot’s Flight of the Ruler in Guernica is the most moving account of citizenship as selfhood I’ve read. Words and strength to hold on to as I occupy my skin in my new decade: ‘I have been sexually propositioned by security guards in art museums in DC…have had numerous men speak to me as though I were beneath them for being a woman. And I’ve felt panic knowing that if I attempt to seek justice for a wrong I might be constrained not only because I am a woman of color but also, possibly, rejected or laughed at because I am a transwoman of color.’
Maybe slaves just needed better mentors? Kimberlé Crenshaw states it beautifully in an interview ‘We need Real Talk About Black Women and Girls’ with Colorlines: why ‘mentoring’ boys is an easy bribe paid to black communities, that denies women and girls social and economic marginalization, excludes more than a handful of boys from any real benefits, and ignores structural inequalities that make private, police and other forms of violence serious threats to black lives.
CL: What’s an example of how women or girls are disappeared from public discussion?
KC: The school-to-prison pipeline. Black boys go to underfunded schools that rely on punishment as a means of social control. That pushes them out of schools at very high rates, which in turn leads them disproportionately into incarceration. So how do we address that? We could simply say, “We’re gonna provide mentors for the boys.” Or, we can focus on increasing the overall resourcing available for schools, which means increasing the resources for girls as well as boys. Or, we canfocus on boys’ mothers whose lack of social and economic mobility is precisely what leaves so many families exposed to both police and private violence.
The overall vulnerability of the black community comes back to fully half of the population being stuck in jobs that pay virtually nothing [and] with…no help now that the social safety net has been completely shredded. Single moms are raising families with virtually no support whatsoever.
CL: And one-on-one mentoring, for example, doesn’t get at the root causes?
KC: Well, you’re assuming that the problem with the boys is a lack of mentors–rather than a completely defunded social structure, the presence of police, or a marketplace that discriminates against boys and men of color. Hell, one could’ve said slaves needed mentors. That wouldn’t have fundamentally altered the economic and political structure that was based on racism.
Mentoring is a deflection from what really is happening. And in some ways I’d say it’s a bribe. If we have enough money to give one boy out of 5,000 a mentor, is that supposed to satisfy all the rest? That’s inadequate and we haven’t even gotten to the 5,000 girls in the same underfunded schoolwho aren’t getting any attention.
We shouldn’t back into this idea of racial justice by thinking that programs that go to boys will somehow solve the most critical problems and we can allow girls to receive trickle-down impact. Trickle-down racial justice doesn’t work anymore than trickle-down economics.
Aaron Bady blogs for the Chronicle and asks English literature department to fess up: they are still trying to get through their first Achebe. “Willful ignorance”.
Until now, Yale’s English department has not had a professor of African literature. According to its faculty website, Yale has about 10 faculty members who claim expertise on 19th-century British literature, while no Africanists are listed…But English departments will continue to regard African literature as “emerging” as long as the “usual suspects” of African literature, as Dimock puts it, continue to be people like Chinua Achebe, J.M. Coetzee, and Nadine Gordimer. If you can name only three African writers and two of them are white South Africans, you have a very odd sense of the literature. But this myopia is also general: English departments do have a very limited sense of what African literature is, which is why Dimock can lightly, ironically—even self-deprecatingly—reference her own ignorance of the field.
Paromita Vohra, (like Aaron Bady), is at her wits end over our insatiable appetitite for primitive documentaries. She does two things (1) She introduces me to the …punjammy and (2) writes a very short but so open letter to white feminist filmmakers …
Are you being forced by the backward thinking men in your families and society into making essentialist explanations about other societies to undermine feminist solidarity and political engagement? Are you being treated as cheap labour to make voyeurism that reaffirms the poor mindset of your society?
Calamity Jane talks about black boys”
“I wanted to be helpful to the police officers, in their search for the boys. So, I did something really stupid. I looked for boys who bore a resemblance to the boys I was describing, and pointed them out to the officers.
“The one kid had a nose that bridged kind of like this kid’s.. not that it’s him, just same kind of nose.. The other kid looked a lot like this guy, obviously not him, but a lot like him.”
“Like, how much like him? Percentage-wise?”
“Ummm… a good bit, definitely not him, but like 60% resemblance.”
“Yeah, around that. But that’s definitely NOT HIM.”
The detective shrugged, and slapped the binder shut. He stood up.
Chris Offut’s account of his ‘dad, the pornographer’ captivates for so many reasons. First, is the description of his father’s prolific output, there is a method folks! Farewell, writer’s block!
His goal was a minimum of a book a month. To achieve that, he refined his methods further, inventing a way that enabled him to maintain a supply of raw material with a minimum of effort… Dad was like Henry Ford applying principles of assembly-line production with pre-made parts. The methodical technique proved highly efficient… Ford hired a team of workers to manufacture a Model-T in hours. Working alone, Dad could write a book in three days.
And then it’s the foray – eyes wide open – into his father’s brain, and ultimately, his heart.
The idea that porn prevented him from killing women was a self-serving delusion that justified his impulse to write and draw portrayals of torture. He needed to believe in a greater purpose to continue his lifelong project. Admitting that he liked it was too much for him to bear.
So few of us (children) will ever have to get this close to our father’s urges, shame, desire, denial, sadness, pleasures and secrets. Amen. And bravo Mr. Offut (senior and junior). Bravo.
Jennifer Zohair defines her rape, and it does not define her. I believe that her essay ‘The religion of my rape‘ speaks to survivors of sexual assault (condoned/ignored by church and state) who do not want to lose their religion.
Zohair’s surprising reference to Joyce Carol Oates made me do a double take as I just read Roxane Gay’s excellent review of JCO’s book, the Sacrifice.
“Then there are the physical descriptions; this novel contains a lot of dark skin and nappy hair. Oates is particularly preoccupied with Ednetta Frye’s heavy breathing and high blood pressure. Cumulatively, these descriptions leave the reader with a distinct impression not of the characters but of the writer who created them. The n-word is used flagrantly, as if this were a Quentin Tarantino screenplay, often without plausible context.”
Finding the Real Lolita – a mystery is solved for me – and the truth is as sad as the fantasy of Lolita. But give me the truth about Sally Horner, any day. Sarah Weinman’s essay in Hazlitt is a must read:
“For six weeks, Ella Horner thought nothing was amiss—she believed her daughter was on summer vacation with friends. After the first week, Sally said she’d be staying longer to see the Ice Follies. After two weeks, the excuses grew more vague. After three weeks, the phone calls stopped.”
When religious men and politicians control women’s sexual autonomy, sex is a painful or repellent reproductive chore.
NYT “The Orthodox Sex Guru” … when the rabbi says no kissing with the lights on.
The Guardian “Face-sitting protest outside parliament against new porn rules” … what? no more face-sitting!
Rather than posit that the Paris attacks are the moment of crisis in free speech—as so many commentators have done—it is necessary to understand that free speech and other expressions of liberté are already in crisis in Western societies; the crisis was not precipitated by three deranged gunmen. The U.S., for example, has consolidated its traditional monopoly on extreme violence, and, in the era of big data, has also hoarded information about its deployment of that violence. There are harsh consequences for those who interrogate this monopoly.
Comedy must ‘punch up’ and not ‘punch down’. Call myself a lawyer, how did I miss this humor law? Lincoln Michel on Electric Literature breaks it right down to the ground, and asks the difficult questions about punching up while being awake to the collateral damage. Oh yes, and he provides a brilliant moment of illustrative humor with Bill Hicks ‘what you reading for’ and not ‘what you reading?’
Of course the pen has played its role as well. The pens that signed the endless Patriot Acts, anti-terror laws and other bills that entrenched police harassment and curtailed civil rights. The pens of the newspaper editorialists who whip up round after round of hysteria, entrenching anti-Muslim prejudice and making people foreigners in their own country. But the pens of newspaper editors were strong not by virtue of their wit or reason, but insofar as they were servants of the powerful and their guns.
Corey Oakley reminds us that we (in the west) are not fooling anybody: our pens are not bringing peace or enlightenment but writing a narrative that erases the crash of drones, torture and bombs that has few parallels in the history of modern warfare.
Richard Z. Santos, on the Rumpus, asks us if he’s passing too? Mexican enough?
I would tell him the truth and that’s everybody’s Passing, as something: As African American, as straight, as a card carrying heteropatriarch, as White, as middle class, as white Spanish, as hood, as feminist, as a natural birther and breastfeeder, as having good hair, as an Ally to (fill in the oppressed group), as anti-violence, as invested in the fight against social injustice, as liberal. Only fake Americans never Pass into community…
“Now, Muro has been forgotten because he’s just not Mexican enough. Okay, he’s not Mexican at all. For too many decades, Mexicans in art, literature, and film were slow-moving, over-emotional, violent, somehow both lazy and conniving. These depictions were created and even portrayed by outsiders, by people who, however good or bad their intentions, helped shape the stereotypes that still thrive. Of course Seltzer/Muro has been exiled from the canon of Southwestern writing. Why read a white guy from Ohio when you can read Miguel Méndez, or Juan Rulfo, or Rolando Hinojosa?
This debate hits close to home. I was born in San Antonio, a city colonized by the Spanish eighty years before the American Revolution. My ancestors have been living in New Mexico and Texas for nearly four hundred years. Yet I don’t speak Spanish and, as far as I know, I have no relatives living in Mexico. Still, I identify as Mexican-American. Should I? Or do you think I should identify as American, even though most people I see in movies who look like me are either gardeners or gangsters? My novel-in-progress features both Mexican-American and Anglo characters. If Seltzer doesn’t have the privilege to write about his wife’s community, then what community can I write about?
The question for me is not: Is Seltzer part of this community? The question is: Am I?”
Maaza Megiste in A Shrinking World is not giving up this land, it’s hers too. I love it:
“The body must be protected, not the thoughts.” I had believed, naively, that we had progressed enough in this country to move beyond the body. I thought it was possible to live in the world of metaphors and literature, to eschew the physical trappings of the body for the higher aims of the intellect. But now I am not so sure.”
Kiese Laymon captures violence in our intimate spaces – black parents – and coming from the nation and its institutes…and says the kids cannot be alright.
Twelve years after getting my Vassar College faculty ID, I sit here and know that the nation can’t structurally and emotionally assault black kids and think they’re going to turn out OK.
Vassar College can’t structurally assault and neglect black kids and think they’re going to turn out OK.
I think about time travel and regret a lot. If I could go back and tell my Mama anything, I would tell her that I love her, and I thank her, and I see her and I know that white racial supremacy, poverty, heteropatriarchy, and a lifetime as a young black woman academic with a hardheaded son are whupping her ass, but black parents can’t physically and emotionally assault their black children—even in an attempt to protect them from the worst of white folks—and think they are going to turn out OK.
We are not OK. We are not OK.
Robin Ryle’s missive to a dear student who says race is not a problem in the US:
Like many of you, I grew up in a small town with very few people who weren’t white. I didn’t grow up with a black president, but in many other ways our situations were the same. I saw black people when we drove into the city and I was taught to be afraid of them. There was an Asian-American girl in my school, and the only time we really much noticed she was different was when we made fun of her last name, because it sounded foreign and weird. No one stopped us from doing that, not even our parents. Native Americans were people with feathers in their hair or faces on the tub of butter. They may as well not have existed as real people at all. Hispanics were the men who were backside taking care of the horses at the racetrack where my mother worked. They were hard to understand. I learned Spanish in high school, but not really with any intention of being able to talk to those people.
That’s where I come from. That’s my legacy. So you might wonder why I’m here, feeling angry at some of you because you don’t want to see your white privilege.
Keguro tells us what ‘we will be told’ –
We will be told that a legal process was followed, that the rules of evidence were followed, that protocols about witnesses were followed. We will be told that the most convincing arguments won, that the most eloquent lawyers won, that the most compelling case won. We will be told that the deaths were accidental, the violence spontaneous, the stolen election a coincidence. We will be told that justice has been served.
And it’s shaming, to know he is right, we will celebrate and wipe our
asses eyes with our spirituality, and feed our appetites with our black Fridays
We will be told to look toward the future, to celebrate development, to forget the past of “little accidents.” We will be assured that the rapacious elite deserve to rule. We will be told to dance in sisal skirts for visiting dignitaries. And, when it comes time to remember the less fortunate, we will be encouraged to donate what we can.
The holiday season will be full of jubilation. We will celebrate the new-born king, the anointed, the fulfillment of prophecies we are assured exist. We will be told to embrace our destiny, to exalt our leaders, to marvel at our good fortune.
We will be told that the missing spaces at our celebration feasts are ordained, the will of destiny or fate or nationalism. That sacrifice will be honored. That martyrs deserve our attention. We will be told to light candles, to burn incense, to remember the gone, but not too much, for the future is bright, and we are one.
He should sing his song to the tune of ‘Do they know it’s Christmas time’. I would buy that single.
Is Evan Calder Williams a seer? Let’s wait and see.
“A large red-tailed hawk was sitting on a branch, slowly devouring a pigeon in front of an American flag, too hamfisted to be an omen, too opaque to not be.”
An extract from my newsletter ‘The Love Letter’…reading Love Me Back sitting on a bus with a little girl I’d ‘advocated for’ in the sexual assault emergency room was not surreal , it was the real life.
I pull out a book Love Me Back, and it’s sad, pathetic, degrading, and deeply arousing. I read it like I’m drinking a slushy with a straw, no breathing out until my mouth is full. “I didn’t hide from Calvin how much I pretended. Pretended to like it, pretended to want it, pretended to have orgasms. He didn’t understand and I couldn’t explain. It had something to do with love and something to do with grief…I am not a mother, I’d think as I walked to the trash can. You can fuck a lot of people, Calvin would say to me, and still enjoy yourself. Make it about you, about pleasure. Atleast make it safe. But it wasn’t about pleasure; it was about how some kinds of pain make fine antidotes to others. So when they gave me their numbers and they were old and I’d seen them with hookers, I said yes. And so on. There was the night with Casey and Florida John.”
I want to highlight and underline this entire page, rip it out and give it to the German girl but it’s a library book.
“I am simply one in three women who is forced to accept violence as part of their life story,” I think the numbers are higher, women who are not victims of rape, are forced to accept the threat of violence against them because they are women and forced to accept violence as part of their sister’s lives – but deeply appreciate Teri Hatcher’s story of survival, and justice, delayed but still justice.
Aron Bady says we are confused.
“Anybody from that area should just stay there until all this stuff is resolved. There’s nobody affected here; let’s just keep it that way.”
Ed Sikov reminds us of a time when the Administration burst out laughing when asked about their response to the AIDS epidemic “What’s AIDS…I don’t have it do you? [Laughter] … Follow his Media Circus column for cutting edge reporting on the Ebola story. ” having lived through the AIDS epidemic we have a moral obligation to do so.” god bless you, Ed.
Duncan Osborne for Gay City News explains why AIDS activists denounce the quarantine.