Sunday, January 28, 2007


a few books i read in 2006 that i can reccomend for some get-under-a-blanket-and-hibernate-winter-reading...

The Darling by Russell Banks
Warning: this book is very difficult to read because of some of the disturbing content. This is a book about Liberia. I remember what I learned in school about Liberia - it was this wonderful land of freedom and liberation created by and for freed slaves in africa. The Darling reminds us that there were African people living in Liberia when the American freed slaves arrived, and shows clearly the legacy of colonialism on the modern poltical situation. The book follows the rise of Charles Taylor to power and the story of the fictional Hannah Musgrave, a member of the Weather Underground who has fled to West Africa and ends up marrying a Liberian.

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray
Growing up in southern Georgia with a junkyard next to her house, and the remains of a longleaf pine forest next to the junkyard, Ray appreciates the possibilities in both. She finds adventure and fun in the junkyard as a child. In the chapter, "How the Heart Opens," Ray writes, "For me, growing up among piles of scrap iron and glittering landmines or borken glass that scattered ivory scars across my body, among hordes of rubber tires that streaked my legs black, among pokeweed and locust, I attribute the opening of my heart to one clump of pitcher plants that still survives on the backside of my father's junkyard...The pitcher plant taught me to love rain, welcoming days of drizzle and sudden thundering downpours, drops trailing down its hoods and leaves, soaking the ground. In my fascination with pitcher plant, I learned to detest artificial bouquets of plastic and silk." This is a story of connection to place and home.

Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
I love Marjane Satrapi! She is the author of Persepolis and Persepolis II, both graphic novels about her childhood and adolescence in Iran. The Persepolis books made me cry and I read them each in one sitting. Embroideries is much lighter than her other graphic novels; it's about the sex lives of Iranian women. Satrapi's art, prose, and storytelling are so compelling you won't feel guilty spending a few hours with a graphic novel/comic book.

Dragonslippers by Rosalind Penfold
Another graphic novel! I am entranced by the form. This one is also autobiographical, and is written by a domestic violence survivor (Rosalind Penfold is a pen name) about her domestic violence situation. As someone who works in the domestic violence field, I was impressed with the way Penfold tells her own story in all its specificity but also speaks to the similarities in many domestic violence situations. I use this book when I educate around the topic of domestic violence because it is so real and impactful. Make sure you have a few hours ahead of you, and probably some tissues nearby before you start into this one. I highly recommend this book!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

anniversary of roe v. wade

today is the anniversary of roe v. wade.

i volunteer as a clinic escort at a local abortion clinic once/month. this means that i help escort patients past the "pro-life" protestors who are at the clinic every saturday. each month i am reminded of one (of the many, many) obstacles that women who want an abortion still face today, over 30 years after abortion was legalized.

my post on november 30th was about bush's appointment of an anti-birth control, anti-sex ed man to head up the country's family planning program. planned parenthood is asking for people to contact their senators about the Prevention First Act (S.21), a sensible way to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies -- by increasing funding and therefore access to birth control for low-income women, and by providing real, comprehensive sex ed for teenagers.

i think it's a fitting action to take on this anniversary. for me, the meaning of "reproductive rights" is that all people, regardless of income, race, gender, and sexual orientation, would have the information, resources, and access they need to make good decisions around sex and reproduction.

click here to contact your senators and urge them to support funding for birth control and sex ed.
if you'd like to make a donation, you could donate to the women's medical fund, an amazing organization here in southeastern PA that provides financial assistance to women who want an abortion but can't afford it.

from "Right to Life," Marge Piercy
I will choose what enters me, what becomes
flesh of my flesh. Without choice, no politics,
no ethics lives. I am not your cornfield,
not your uranium mine, not your calf
for fattening, not your cow for milking.
You may not use me as your factory.
Priests and legislators do not hold
shares in my womb or my mind.
This is my body. If I give it to you
I want it back. My life
is a non-negotiable demand.

more on global warming

as i mentioned in my last post on this topic, i've become rather obsessed with the topic of global warming. and yes, even though it's bitter cold today in philly, i'm still thinking about it. the AP recently quoted stephen w. hawkins, the "renowned cosmologist and mathematician" as saying that global warming has eclipsed other threats to the planet, such as terrorism.

"terror only kills hundreds or thousands of people," hawking said. "global warming could kill millions. we should have a war on global warming rather than the war on terror."

now if we could just get the bush administration to believe in science and listen to the scientists.

Monday, January 8, 2007

the debacle

on january 2nd i went to a candlelight vigil to mark the 3,000th american death in the iraq war. estimates of iraqi deaths range widely from 53,000 to more than 600,000.
with this terrible, unjust war raging onward, george w. bush is considering sending more troops to die under the guise of the nation needing to learn about "sacrifice."
the video below is a powerful and eloquent response to the deadly nonsense that comes out of the white house daily.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

save the polar bears: go vegetarian!

hi folks.

what's up with the warm weather? i've become that person that constantly brings up the same old issue over and over again, to everyone's chagrin. whenever anyone around me comments on the "nice" weather, i bring up global warming. have any of you been reading the doomsday news on this issue? i really don't get why no one is freaking out. consider these facts:

1. every single year since 1992 is on the current list of the 20 warmest years on record.

2. an international team of scientists determined that rising temperatures are likely to cause the melting of at least half of arctic sea ice by the end of the century.

3. the EPA estimates that the global sea level rose 6 to 12 inches over the last 100 years. One or 2 inches of that rise is blamed on glaciers melting, the rest is due to the fact that seawater expands as it gets warmer. in the coming century, sea levels are expected to rise another 12 to 24 inches, enough to cause devastating flooding.

4. the bush administration is considering putting polar bears on the endangered list.

scientists predict the effects of global warming will include the extinction of millions of species, widespread flooding, changes in the earth's temperature, precipitation, storm patterns, and the level of the oceans. all of this will have severe effects on agriculture, transporation, public health, and the availability of clean drinking water.

and who is to blame for all this death and destruction? i was suprised to learn that a recent UN report suggests the world's vast cattle herds actually emit more of those nasty greenhouse gases that increase climate heat than all the cars, planes and other forms of transport put together. cattle grazing is also a major cause of deforestation. the UN experts say that unless we make some big changes, the massive eco-damage done by livestock will more than double by 2050 as meat consumption increases.

so i say, save the polar bears: go vegetarian!

here are three pages that have some other suggestions: 1 2 3

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New Year!

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese - harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver

I have a lot on my mind as we begin this new year, and look forward to sharing some of those thoughts with you over the course of the coming months. But today I am too tired from bringing in the new year to the fabulous sounds of James Hunter to write much. So I figured I'd share with you two pieces of writing that have been important to me. One is the Mary Oliver poem above. If you haven't checked out Mary Oliver, you should! She is an amazing poet.

Here's the other one I wanted to share -- it's by Arundhati Roy, an Indian writer and activist. She's most well known in the States for her book The God of Small Things.

Our strategy should be not only to confront empire but to lay seige to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubborness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness - and our ability to tell our own stories. The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling - their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
Arundhati Roy

Many wishes for a kick-ass New Year filled with the love of family and friends, peace in this often violent world, laughter and joy, the will to keep up the struggle, and hope that another world is indeed possible. Much love, Susanna