Saturday, December 31, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Wordless Wednesday, Miercoles mudo: 'We must talk about poverty, because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it'
Monday, December 12, 2011
LETTER OF THE HISPANIC/LATINO BISHOPS TO IMMIGRANTS - CARTA DE LOS OBISPOS HISPANOS/LATINOS A LOS INMIGRANTES
Dear immigrant sisters and brothers,
May the peace and grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you!
We the undersigned Hispanic/Latino Bishops of the United States wish to let those of you who lack proper authorization to live and work in our country know that you are not alone, or forgotten. We recognize that every human being, authorized or not, is an image of God and therefore possesses infinite value and dignity. We open our arms and hearts to you, and we receive you as members of our Catholic family. As pastors, we direct these words to you from the depths of our heart.
In a very special way we want to thank you for the Christian values you manifest to us with your lives—your sacrifice for the well-being of your families, your determination and perseverance, your joy of life, your profound faith and fidelity despite your insecurity and many difficulties. You contribute much to the welfare of our nation in the economic, cultural and spiritual arenas.
The economic crisis has had an impact on the entire U.S. community. Regretfully, some in reaction to this environment of uncertainty show disdain for immigrants and even blame them for the crisis. We will not find a solution to our problems by sowing hatred. We will find the solution by sowing a sense of solidarity among all workers and co-workers —immigrants and citizens—who live together in the United States.
In your suffering faces we see the true face of Jesus Christ. We are well aware of the great sacrifice you make for your families’ well-being. Many of you perform the most difficult jobs and receive miserable salaries and no health insurance or social security. Despite your contributions to the well-being of our country, instead of receiving our thanks, you are often treated as criminals because you have violated current immigration laws.
We are also very aware of the pain suffered by those families who have experienced the deportation of one of their members. We are conscious of the frustration of youth and young adults who have grown up in this country and whose dreams are shattered because they lack legal immigration status. We also know of the anxiety of those whose application process for permanent residency is close to completion and of the anguish of those who live daily under the threat of deportation. This situation cries out to God for a worthy and humane solution.
We acknowledge that, at times, actions taken in regard to immigrants have made you feel ignored or abandoned, especially when no objection is raised to the false impressions that are promoted within our society. Through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops we have testified before the U.S. Congress for change in our immigration laws and for legislation that respects family unity and provides an orderly and reasonable process for unauthorized persons to attain citizenship. The new law should include a program for worker visas that respects the immigrants’ human rights, provides for their basic needs and ensures that they enter our country and work in a safe and orderly manner. We will also continue to advocate on behalf of global economic justice, so that our brothers and sisters can find employment opportunities in their countries of origin that offer a living wage, and allow them to live with dignity.
Immigrants are a revitalizing force for our country. The lack of a just, humane and effective reform of immigration laws negatively affects the common good of the entire United States.
It pains and saddens us that many of our Catholic brothers and sisters have not supported our petitions for changes in the immigration law that will protect your basic rights while you contribute your hard work to our country. We promise to keep working to bring about this change. We know how difficult the journey is to reach the border and to enter the United States. That is why we are committed to do all that we can to bring about a change in the immigration law, so that you can enter and remain here legally and not feel compelled to undertake a dangerous journey in order to support and provide for your families. As pastors concerned for your welfare, we ask you to consider seriously whether it is advisable to undertake the journey here until after just and humane changes occur in our immigration laws.
Nevertheless, we are not going to wait until the law changes to welcome you who are already here into our churches, for as St. Paul tells us, “You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors; you are fellow-citizens with the holy people of God and part of God’s household” (Eph 2:19).
As members of the Body of Christ which is the Church, we offer you spiritual nourishment. Feel welcome to Holy Mass, the Eucharist, which nourishes us with the word and the body and blood of Jesus. We offer you catechetical programs for your children and those religious education programs that our diocesan resources allow us to put at your disposal.
We who are citizens and permanent residents of this country cannot forget that almost all of us, we or our ancestors, have come from other lands and together with immigrants from various nations and cultures, have formed a new nation. Now we ought to open our hearts and arms to the recently arrived, just as Jesus asks us to do when he says, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was an alien and you took me into your house” (Mt 25:35). These words of the Lord Jesus can be applied to the new immigrants among us. They were hungry in their land of origin; they were thirsty as they traveled through the deserts, and they find themselves among us as aliens. (See Daniel G. Groody, CSC, “Crossing the Line,” in The Way, Vol. 43,, No. 2, April 2004, p. 58-69). Their presence challenges us to be more courageous in denouncing the injustices they suffer. In imitation of Jesus and the great prophets we ought to denounce the forces that oppress them and announce the good news of the Kingdom with our works of charity. Let us pray and struggle to make it possible for these brothers and sisters of ours to have the same opportunities from which we have benefitted.
We see Jesus the pilgrim in you migrants. The Word of God migrated from heaven to earth in order to become man and save humanity. Jesus emigrated with Mary and Joseph to Egypt, as a refugee. He migrated from Galilee to Jerusalem for the sacrifice of the cross, and finally he emigrated from death to life in the resurrection and ascension to heaven. Today, he continues to journey and accompany all migrants on pilgrimage throughout the world in search of food, work, dignity, security and opportunities for the welfare of their families.
You reveal to us the supreme reality of life: we are all migrants. Your migration gives a strong and clear message that we are migrants on the way to eternal life. Jesus accompanies all Christians on our journey toward the house of our Father, God’s Kingdom in heaven. (See Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, No. 50.)
We urge you not to despair. Keep faith in Jesus the migrant who continues to walk beside you. Have faith in Our Lady of Guadalupe who constantly repeats to us the words she spoke to St. Juan Diego, “Am I, who am your mother, not here?” She never abandons us, nor does St. Joseph who protects us as he did the Holy Family during their emigration to Egypt.
As pastors we want to continue to do advocacy for all immigrants. With St. Paul we say to you: “Do not be mastered by evil; but master evil with good.” (Rm 12:21).
May Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, accompany you and bless you always.
Sincerely in Christ our Savior,
The Hispanic/Latino Bishops of the United States
¡Que la paz y la gracia de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo estén con todos ustedes!
Nosotros los obispos hispanos/latinos de Estados Unidos abajo firmantes les hacemos saber a quienes se encuentran en nuestro país sin papeles que no están solos ni olvidados. Reconocemos que todo ser humano, documentado o no, es imagen de Dios y por lo tanto tiene un valor y dignidad infinitos. Les abrimos nuestros brazos y nuestro corazón y los recibimos como miembros de nuestra familia católica. Como pastores, les dirigimos estas palabras desde lo más profundo de nuestro corazón.
De una manera muy especial queremos agradecerles los valores cristianos que nos demuestran con su vida – el sacrificio por el bien de sus familias, la determinación y perseverancia, el gozo de vivir, su profunda fe y su fidelidad a pesar de la inseguridad y tantas dificultades. Ustedes contribuyen mucho al bienestar de nuestra nación en el ámbito económico, cultural y espiritual.
La crisis económica ha impactado a toda la comunidad estadounidense. Lamentablemente, algunos aprovechan este ambiente de incertidumbre para despreciar al migrante y aun culparlo por esta crisis. Sembrar el odio no nos lleva a remediar la crisis. Encontraremos el remedio en la solidaridad entre todos los trabajadores y colaboradores—inmigrantes y ciudadanos—que conviven en los Estados Unidos.
En sus rostros sufrientes vemos el rostro verdadero de Jesucristo. Sabemos muy bien el gran sacrificio que hacen por el bien de sus familias. Muchos de ustedes hacen los trabajos más difíciles, con sueldos miserables y sin seguro de salud o prestaciones salariales o sociales. A pesar de sus contribuciones al bienestar de nuestro país, en lugar de ofrecerles gratitud, se les trata como criminales porque han violado la ley de inmigración actual.
Estamos también muy conscientes del dolor de las familias que han sufrido la deportación de alguno de sus miembros; de la frustración de los jóvenes que han crecido en este país y cuyos sueños son truncados por su estatus migratorio; de la ansiedad de aquellos que están en espera de la aprobación de su petición de residencia permanente; y de la angustia de quienes viven cada día bajo la amenaza de ser deportados. Todas estas situaciones claman a Dios por una solución digna y humana.
Reconocemos que en ocasión las acciones tomadas con respecto a los inmigrantes les ha llevado a sentirse ignorados y abandonados, incluyendo cuando no se han escuchado voces que se levanten ante las falsedades que se promueven dentro de nuestra sociedad. Por medio de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos (USCCB) hemos abogado ante el Congreso estadounidense por un cambio a la ley de inmigración que respete la unidad de la familia, e incluya pasos ordenados y razonables para que personas sin documentos puedan obtener la ciudadanía. La nueva ley deberá incluir un programa de visas para trabajadores que respete los derechos humanos de los inmigrantes, les provea las necesidades básicas para vivir y facilite su ingreso a nuestro país para trabajar en un ambiente seguro y ordenado. Así mismo, continuamos abogando por la justicia económica global que facilite el empleo de nuestros hermanos y hermanas en su tierra de origen y les provea lo suficiente para vivir con dignidad.
El pueblo inmigrante es una fuerza revitalizadora para el país. La falta de una reforma migratoria justa, humana y eficaz debilita el bien común de toda la unión americana.
Nos duele y nos apena que muchos de nuestros hermanos y hermanas católicos no hayan apoyado nuestras peticiones por un cambio a la ley de inmigración que proteja sus derechos, mientras ustedes contribuyen con su trabajo a nuestro país. Les prometemos que seguiremos trabajando para obtener este cambio. Conocemos lo difícil que es el camino para llegar y para entrar a Estados Unidos. Por eso estamos comprometidos a hacer lo que podamos para lograr un cambio de ley que les permita entrar y vivir en este país legalmente, y no se vean ustedes obligados a emprender un camino peligroso para proveer a sus familias. Como pastores que se preocupan por el bienestar de todos ustedes, les debemos decir que consideren seriamente si es aconsejable emprender su camino hacia acá antes de que se logre un cambio justo y humano en las leyes de inmigración.
Sin embargo, no vamos a esperar hasta que cambie la ley para darles la bienvenida en nuestras iglesias a los que ya están aquí, ya que San Pablo nos dice, “Ustedes ya no son extranjeros ni huéspedes, sino conciudadanos de los que forman el pueblo de Dios; son familia de Dios” (Ef. 2:19).
Como miembros del Cuerpo de Cristo que es la Iglesia, les ofrecemos alimento espiritual. Siéntanse bienvenidos a la Santa Misa, la Eucaristía que nos alimenta con la palabra y con el cuerpo y la sangre de Jesús. Les ofrecemos programas de catequesis para sus hijos, y los programas de formación que nuestros esfuerzos diocesanos nos permiten poner a su alcance.
Los ciudadanos y residentes permanentes de este país no podemos olvidar que casi todos, nosotros o nuestros antepasados, hemos venido de otras tierras, y juntos con inmigrantes de varias naciones y culturas hemos formado una nueva nación. Ahora debemos abrirles el corazón y los brazos a los recién llegados, como nos lo pide Jesús cuando nos dice, “Tuve hambre y ustedes me alimentaron; tuve sed y ustedes me dieron de beber; pasé como forastero y ustedes me recibieron en su casa” (Mt 25:35). Estas palabras del Señor Jesús se pueden aplicar a los inmigrantes entre nosotros. Tuvieron hambre en su tierra de origen, tuvieron sed al pasar por el desierto, y se encuentran entre nosotros como forasteros (ver Daniel G. Groody, CSC, “Crossing the Line,” The Way, Vol. 43, No.2, abril 2004, p.58-69). Su presencia nos invita a ser más valientes en la denuncia de las injusticias que sufren. A imitación de Jesús y de los grandes
profetas, debemos denunciar las fuerzas que los oprimen, y anunciar la buena nueva del Reino con nuestras obras de caridad. Oremos y luchemos para que estos hermanos y hermanas nuestras tengan las mismas oportunidades de las cuales nosotros nos hemos beneficiado.
Vemos en ustedes migrantes a Jesús peregrino. La Palabra de Dios migró del cielo a la tierra para hacerse hombre y salvar a la humanidad. Jesús emigró con María y José a Egipto, como refugiado. Migró de Galilea a Jerusalén para el sacrificio de la Cruz, y finalmente emigró de la muerte a la resurrección y ascendió al cielo. Hoy día, sigue caminando y acompañando a todos los migrantes que peregrinan por el mundo en búsqueda de alimento, trabajo, dignidad, seguridad y oportunidades para el bien de sus familias.
Ustedes nos revelan la realidad suprema de la vida: todos somos migrantes. Su migración es un fuerte y claro mensaje de que todos somos migrantes hacia la vida eterna. Jesús nos acompaña a todos los cristianos en nuestro peregrinar hacia la casa del Padre, el reino de Dios en el cielo (Ver Tertio Millennio Adveniente No. 50).
Les rogamos que no se desesperen. Mantengan su fe en Jesús migrante que sigue caminando con ustedes, y en la Santísima Virgen de Guadalupe que constantemente nos repite las palabras dichas a san Juan Diego, “¿No estoy yo aquí que soy tu Madre?” Ella nunca nos abandona, ni nos abandona san José quien nos protege como lo hizo con la Sagrada Familia durante su emigración a Egipto.
Como pastores queremos seguir abogando por todos los inmigrantes. Con san Pablo les repetimos: “No se dejen vencer por el mal; antes bien, venzan el mal con la fuerza del bien” (Rom. 12:21).
Que Dios todopoderoso, Padre, Hijo y Espíritu Santo los acompañe y los bendiga siempre.
Sinceramente en Cristo Salvador,
Los Obispos Hispanos/Latinos de Estados Unidos
Most Rev. José H. Gómez
Archbishop of Los Angeles
Most Rev. Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS
Archbishop of San Antonio
Most Rev. Gerald R. Barnes
Bishop of San Bernardino
Most Rev. Alvaro Corrada del Rio, SJ
Apostolic Administrator of Tyler
Bishop of Mayaguez, PR
Most Rev. Felipe de Jesús Estevez
Bishop of St. Augustine
Most Rev. Richard J. García
Bishop of Monterey
Most Rev. Armando X. Ochoa
Apostolic Administrator of El Paso
Bishop-designate of Fresno
Most Rev. Plácido Rodríguez, CMF
Bishop of Lubbock
Most Rev. James A. Tamayo
Bishop of Laredo
Most Rev. Raymundo J. Peña
Bishop Emeritus of Brownsville
Most Rev. Arthur Tafoya
Bishop Emeritus of Pueblo
Most Rev. Daniel E. Flores
Bishop of Brownsville
Most Rev. Fernando Isern, D.D.
Bishop of Pueblo
Most Rev. Ricardo Ramírez,
Bishop of Las Cruces
Most Rev. Jaime Soto
Bishop of Sacramento
Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez
Bishop of Austin
Most Rev. Carlos A. Sevilla, SJ
Bishop Emeritus of Yakima
Most Rev. Oscar Cantú, S.T.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of San Antonio
Most Rev. Arturo Cepeda
Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit
Most Rev. Manuel A. Cruz
Auxiliary Bishop of Newark
Most Rev. Rutilio del Riego
Auxiliary Bishop of San Bernardino
Most Rev. Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S
Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle
Most Rev. Francisco González , S.F.
Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, DC
Most Rev. Eduardo A. Nevares
Auxiliary Bishop of Phoenix
Most Rev. Alexander Salazar
Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles
Most Rev. David Arias, OAR
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Newark
Most Rev. Octavio Cisneros, DD
Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn
Most. Rev. Edgar M. da Cunha, SDV
Auxiliary Bishop of Newark
Most Rev. Cirilo B. Flores
Auxiliary Bishop of Orange
Most Rev. Josu Iriondo
Auxiliary Bishop of New York
Most Rev. Alberto Rojas
Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago
Most Rev. Luis Rafael Zarama
Auxiliary Bishop of Atlanta
Most Rev. Gabino Zavala
Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 12, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Parishes prepare to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe - and a legislative alert on pending anti-immigrant legislation
Latinos throughout the Philadelphia Archdiocese are preparing for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12).
A major celebration will take place at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul at 18th and the Parkway Sunday, Dec. 11. Processions will start out from St. Thomas Aquinas and Annunciation BVM in South Philadelphia, and from Visitation BVM, St. Michael and St. Peter the Apostle in North Philadelphia, at 7 p.m. As the processions arrive at the Cathedral at 8 p.m. when mariachis and those gathered will serenade Our Lady of Guadalupe with Las Mañanitas - the traditional way to mark the vigil of her feast day. Mass with mariachi music will begin at 9, followed by an indoor procession, a presentation of roses to Our Lady, and refreshments. Join us for this incredibly joyful and festive celebration!
Here's a video snippet from a past celebration of the feast day:
On Dec. 12 itself, at Our Lady of Fatima in Bensalem, the Mañanitas vigil takes place at 5 a.m. A procession takes starts at 6 p.m. and the feast day Mass begins at 8 p.m.
Non fecit taliter omni nationi. ¡Que viva la Morenita!
Voice your opposition to these two pieces of legislation:
Voice your opposition to these two pieces of legislation:
SB 9: SB 9 passed the House State Government Committee on Tuesday and is scheduled for a vote on the House Floor on Monday, Dec. 12. SB 9 would require applicants for a wide range of public benefits to show government-issued ID. The bill's supporters claim that its purpose is to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving benefits that they are ineligible for - even though there is no evidence that this is happening. Instead, the bill would prevent eligible Pennsylvanians who lack ID from accessing the benefits they need and cost millions in taxpayer dollars to implement. Project H.O.M.E. Philadelphia's tireless advocates for the homeless have opposed this bill precisely because of the anticipated impact on homeless citizens. Click here for an automated form to voice your opposition.
HB 439: On November 15, HB 439 became the first anti-immigrant bill to pass the PA House. HB 439 would require licensing boards and commissions to revoke the license of any business that knowingly hires an unauthorized worker. This could mean that an entire hospital's license could be revoked because of a single undocumented employee. This provision could make employers hesitant to hire foreign-born workers and create an atmosphere of fear and bigotry in the workplace. HB 439 has been committed to the Senate State Government committee. Click here for an automated form to voice your opposition.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Manu Chao is a Spanish/French singer, who performed in Sept. at Penns Landing in Philadelphia. Later that month he gave a free concert in Arizona for altoarizona.com to draw attention to the harsh immigration laws in effect in that state.
Parts of the video are filmed in front of Arizona Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's tent city jail for undocumented immigrants. Yes, the sheriff makes them wear "jailbird" stripes, and a number of years ago, he paraded them down main street in shackles (this link will take you to the New York Times editorial that appeared after that degrading spectacle) and are part of a documentary titled "Two Americans" (www.twoamericans.com). Here's the trailer from their film:
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
If you read my blog post of Nov. 15, 2009, "How to make an immigrant quilt," you know how very long I've been working (and not working) at finishing this crazy quilt. Sara Newswanger, a Mennonite quilter from Churchtown, Pa., did the binding and quilted through the yardage of vintage batik from Zaire I gave her for backing.
So ... now that I see it ... those three blocks on the third panel from the top should have all been oriented differently. The white bird's head should have pointed at the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe in that medallion-shaped piece in the center; the trees in the block on the left would have echoed that "footing," and the writing on the square on the right (with the pieces of a drawn "story quilt" my daughter started when she was tiny) would have been legible. Oh well, live and learn.
I'll get it right in the next quilt. ;-)
|Sara echoed the hearts I had appliqued on the verso in her quilting.|
Sunday, December 4, 2011
I love collective nouns: a parliament of owls, a murder of crows, an exaltation of larks. The provenance of some collective nouns are easy to figure, others less so. With their mythic ties to Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, I can guess how a group of owls became a parliament. But a murder of crows? They aren’t birds of prey -- those lethally efficient killers of the bird world -- just scavengers. Still, in spite of -- or maybe because of -- the horrific meaning of the word murder, this collective noun is one of the most memorable. Easy to remember. Evocative.
Which is all background for my intended use of this collective noun for stories: a subversion.
Yeah, the word means to overthrow, to ruin and destroy. Not nice words -- as dark, sometimes, as murder -- and not what most writers would choose to describe the painstaking product of their craft. But it fits. Stories supplant and turn things upside down -- even the gentlest and quietest stories. Stories change what we experience (or imagine experiencing) by replacing the felt, the seen, the smelled, the heard, the sensed, the remembered and the said, with a whole new governing system: the written word.
Is there anything more dangerous, more utterly transformative? Not for nothing has literacy (and access to the printed word) long been considered foundational to freedom and the best proof against repression.
Which brings me to the specific subversion of stories I want to write about today.
Crossed Genres Publications (which, I’ll disclose, published one of my short stories a year ago and is slated to publish another story and a novel in the future) is releasing an anthology of short stories tomorrow (Dec. 5). “Subversion - Science Fiction and Fantasy tales of subverting the norm,” and each of its 16 stories, subverts in multiple ways. First and foremost, of course, they are stories. But they are also stories in an already subversive genre (what could be more subversive than swapping our world for another?) and filled with acts of subversion, both large and small. One of the stories even subverts the notion of subversion.
Pretty interesting stuff.
A number of the people included in the anthology are writers whose work I already search out: Daniel José Older, Kelly Jennings, Cat Rambo. Others were discoveries.
Camille Alexa was one of those. Her “And All Its Truths” is a story about a nameless person given up for dead in a prison on another world; a compassionate religious sister; and an act of sabotage worthy (and reminiscent) of the partisans during WWII. Alexa’s story is more Roberto Rossellini than George Lucas, and its images and characters linger long after the story is done. I liked this piece so much I hesitated before reading the rest of the anthology. There have been anthologies that I remember only for one story, good or bad (such as the anthology that contained Geoff Ryman’s “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter”), and I really didn’t want this anthology to be that way.
I shouldn’t have worried.
I’d already read one of Barbara Krasnoff’s smart and well-crafted stories before I started “The Red Dybbuk” in this anthology, so I was predisposed to like it. Like Alexa’s story, there are traditionally understood acts of subversion in Krasnoff’s story about four generations of Jewish women. But beneath the familiar forms of activism is a much more subtle upending of legend and family dynamic. Krasnoff’s writing reminds me just a tiny bit of Grace Paley’s, mostly because the characters are rich and complicated and I’m convinced they have lives off the page as well as on it.
I hadn’t read any of Natania Barron’s stories before I cracked “Pushing paper in Hartleigh,” but now I’m thinking I’ll have to search out the rest of her work. The story is a weird and delightful combination of Western and semi-Elizabethan, in plot, world and character. Though this story, too, has a recognizable act of subversion in the storyline, its real subversion may be that it dares to invite inimical tropes to the party and gets them to play perfectly together.
Kay Holt’s “Parent Hack” hides subversion within subversion within subversion. In best Sci Fi tradition it takes real world issues -- in this case, absent parents and the shortfalls of the foster care system -- and reimagines them in a future context. The protagonists are two children who want to be brothers, three bots (two of them parent substitutes and a hacker bot) as well as a flesh-and-blood hacker -- and they’re all clandestinely overturning systems, be those code, expectation or actual institution. What’s particularly noteworthy in Holt’s piece is that despite its economy, the characters feel fleshed out, and are intriguingly complex. Worthy of a novel, in fact.
Jean Johnson’s deeply cynical and seamlessly written “The Hero Identity” is, for me, the most distressing of the stories in Subversion. That’s quite a feat in a book whose stories don’t shy away from showing the cruelties we (and our human proxies) visit upon each other. “The Hero Identity” is the subvert-the-subversion story I referred to earlier, and its inclusion in the anthology is sheer brilliance on editor Bart Leib's part. I can’t call this story my favorite -- to borrow a Gollum-ism, it’s tricksy -- but, boy howdy, do I admire its smarts and its skill.
I didn’t want to write about Shanna Germain’s story, “Seed.” Really, I didn’t. This story has the most repugnant of the many cruelties that prompt protagonists to subversive action in this collection of stories. But the thing is, Germain’s a terrific writer. Food, eroticism, cultural disjuncture, something a hair shy of femicide, the promise of revenge -- it’s all in “Seed” and its all laid out with consummate skill. Like Alexa’s story but far more disturbing, this one stays with you long after you’ve come to its close.
Newspaper folks like me know all about shared bylines on articles. It’s easy to do separate interviews and research and pull it into a seamless news story. But how does it work in short fiction? I don’t know -- I’m really asking RJ Astruc and Deirdre Murphy, who together wrote “Scrapheap Angel” for Subversion. This is one of my favorite stories in the anthology, what with its tyranny of depersonalization so well and completely drawn. There’s a lovely irony in Astruc and Murphy’s subversive act, and a gentle goofiness to it. You can’t help but root for it to succeed.
I read Subversion in epub form, but I have to admit, I would have preferred a print copy because -- no matter what the Who song says -- when it comes to this, the new “boss” is definitely not the old “boss.” I miss the feel of paper, the skipping around and the revisits that, for me, are more likely on the page than on the screen.
I know, I know, it makes me a downright unsubversive reader. I can live with that. Now, if only I could come up with a collective noun ….
Subversion includes stories by: Jessica Reisman, Camille Alexa, Melissa S. Green, Daniel José Older, Kelly Jennings, Barbara Krasnoff, Natania Barron, Kay T. Holt, Jean Johnson, Cat Rambo, Shanna Germain, RJ Astruc and Deirdre Murphy, C.A. Young, Wendy N. Wagner, Timothy T. Murphy and Caleb Jordan Schulz. Click here for its Goodreads listing and here for its Amazon listing.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Saturday, November 19, 2011
|Adipose, from Doctor Who|
It was shortly after I had been approved to blog for the site, but hadn’t written a post yet and I was hitting it often to gauge the type of writers with whom I’d be keeping company. To be fair, the anti-fat-person post wasn’t written by one of their bylined writers -- it was posted in a subsection of the site called “Smartly Anonymous” and the writer -- regular? administrator? guest? who knows? -- was uncredited.
It was a pretty awful post -- prejudiced, intolerant, offensive (want to read it? go here) -- but I understood exactly what it was: bait. Provocative posts drive web traffic, and I’m sure the Smartly folks anticipated an upswing from whatever buzz the post would create. It’s not called Smartly for nothing.
I held back from commenting when I originally read it because I anticipated a firestorm of comments calling out the anonymous writer for the nastiness. But the comments were subdued. Some even sort of agreed. While most took umbrage with the word hate to describe the blogger's sentiment toward fat people, the commenters voiced disgust with the physicality of fat; implied a certain moral turpitude; described laziness, lack of discipline and a whole host of pejoratives as the imagined failures of their fatter brothers and sisters.
After posting two very long-winded comments, I decided I didn’t want to be associated with a site that hosted this sort of content. I haven’t been back, even as a reader, until today when I went there to retrieve the link to the post.
In the ensuing year I’ve noticed stories about celebrities tossed off of airplanes because they were thought too fat to fit in one seat (read it here); parents who starved their infant because they didn’t want her to grow into an obese child (read it here); how fat trumps race, gender, social or academic skills as a reason kids get bullied (read it here).
What is it about obesity that unleashes the vicious in so many of us?
Images of beauty and ideas about worth are formed by families and peers, cultural norms and societal pressures. Centuries of fine art (and, indeed, ancient and folk art) tell us that the large, fleshy body can be both beautiful and powerful, but since the middle of the 20th century neither perception nor societal norm has favored the corpulent. (For this post I’m going to write only about body size, not the other tyrannies of image society imposes. Read my “You might be a cult member if…” post for an earlier take on some of those.) There are probably academic treatises tracing the whys and wherefores of the shift from fat being okay to anathema, but I’m more interested in noting how we -- consciously and unconsciously -- shore up and entrench this thinking. And how, by doing so, we enable blog posts like the one that drove me away from Smartly.
I should probably stop to disclose that I was a fat child, and a fat adolescent, and although I haven’t been really fat for nearly half of my life now, I’m no slip of a woman either. I inherited a compact, endomorphic solidity from grandmothers on both sides of my family and mostly I’m pretty happy with what that means. But then, I was lucky enough to grow up in Latin America at a time when it was okay, even desirable, to be gordita. I watched my mother and her middle-aged (or older) tías and primas-hermanas and friends out on the dance floor -- all curvy overweight and jiggly parts -- executing killer moves I still can’t quite replicate. They weren’t a bit abashed by their bodies. They were confident and sexy and having fun.
You have to have some hips to shake them, baby.
I’m not an heir to the deep puritanism that underpins the I-hate-fat blog post and hides in some of the comments. Both my Greek and Guatemalan-Mexican sides hold with joyful eating, joyful dancing, joyful celebration and connection to an earth that itself is fat, round and celebratory. Embrace, not renounce, is the motto my ancestral blood pulses.
Still, it wasn’t lost on me that the books I read so voraciously had precious few fat protagonists. In the magazines I leafed through, the movies I watched, the music I listened to -- most aspects of pop culture, in fact -- the fat people were invisible. Nice irony, huh? The embodiment of presence and nowhere to be seen.
Which is more or less the way we want it to be at this moment in history. Think not? Read that blog and its comments again. A surprising number find the sight of a fat person an offense worth excoriation. And underpinning the healthful intentions of our current efforts to eradicate “the epidemic of obesity?” The same desire to erase the obese from our sight.
Understand, I’m not denying the health toll of extreme obesity, only pointing out that we speak of this differently than we do other health trends we’ve obsessed about. I remember when it seemed anorexia and bulimia were on everyone’s lips -- but we spoke about anorexics and bulimics in a much different way than we do the obese. Overachievers as opposed to underachievers. Steely with control as opposed to mushy with lack of it. Intensely intellectual in the sense of choosing mind over body, rather than animalistic. Wouldn’t you rather be thought the first in all of those than the second? How about if someone were using those words to describe your daughter or son?
I can’t imagine, in those anorexia/bulimia “epidemic” years, that anyone could have written a blog post like the "I might hate you" one at Smartly Anonymous and thought to get away with it, much less elicit the "I hear you" embedded in some of the comments. And yet here we are -- the fat are fair game.
A number of months ago Kay Holt, one of the editor-publishers of Crossed Genres, asked me to submit a story for an anthology she was planning. The catch, if you want to call it that, was that the protagonist had to be a fat girl or woman. And the fact that she was fat couldn’t be just a passing mention, it had to be integral to -- or at least integrated into -- the story as a whole. I ran through all my banked and half-finished short stories (there are rather a lot of them) and realized I had never written a story with a fat protagonist. Not one.
And I remembered being a fat little girl who read and read and read and never once came across a protagonist who looked even remotely like me.
Invisibility. Even from those who have felt it en carne propria (in their own flesh).
Fortunately Kay (and Bart Leib, the other editor-publisher of Crossed Genres) liked “La Gorda and the City of Silver” enough to include it in their anthology Fat Girl in a Strange Land, which will be released Feb. 17, 2012. I can’t wait to read all the other stories in the anthology. The little kid in me is pretty much dancing around impatiently, a bit petulant at having to wait.
Is it going to change the way we perceive fat people? Probably not. It is a single small step in a journey that’ll take steps beyond counting. But tell you what, if even one young overweight girl sits down with the book and sees herself represented by one of the protagonists of the 14 stories included in the anthology, it will be enough.
And then I’ll celebrate -- so very unpuritan of me, don’t you know-- by making all my real, round and uninvisible flesh jiggle in a dance of pure joy.
Update: Ebook advanced review copies of Fat Girl in a Strange Land are available for reviewers! Email email@example.com if interested.
Update: Ebook advanced review copies of Fat Girl in a Strange Land are available for reviewers! Email firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.