Whispered In The Wind

Whispered In The Wind
Just a fairy blowing in the wind, singing tales to the west wind

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What's Up With My Book Shelf? Only Reading books by Women Authors For A Year

When I set out to only read books by women authors for a year, it was not a political statement. I was simply addressing an imbalance in my life. I saw that my crammed book shelf was filled with books by men, I could barely remember the last book I had read by a women. It felt wrong. I knew I needed to fix something. So I decided that every book I read outside of my school curriculum would be by a woman. At first I would go to grab a book and then shake my head and put it back-by a man. I did this over and over again, but over time only looking at titles by women became second nature. It became like I couldn’t see the other books. But at the same time, I was shocked. As I became highly attuned to grabbing books by women, I began to see how rare they are. Take a moment to really look, look at your book stores, your library shelves. Where are the books by women? Sure, they are there. But the numbers are nowhere near equal. 

And so the personal became political. I did research, I sent out a survey, I took a class on women’s voices, I created a list of my school librarian’s favourite books by women authors. I started to organize and stock the up cycle book centre with books by women. Now home, I’m setting up writing workshops for young girls in the community and giving them venues to share their work. 

The truth is women are writing, women are being published. But we’re not getting the shelf space, not getting the recognition we deserve. We are not in your school curriculum. We are not the authors of your textbooks. We are not on the top of the best seller lists. So I’ve come to understand that if I want space for myself on book shelves, I will have to carve that space out for myself, shove my way in. I am willing to do this because I know I deserve that space, I know that women deserve equal space. So yes, I read only books by women for a year, and yes it became political statement.

It was a statement 
-that my gender is worth recognition.
-we deserve space.
-I’m done with a literary canon that is not inclusive.
-I believe books are one of the most important tools on this planet, and if we don’t have access to a full toolbox than we are only shorting ourselves.
-women don’t write books for women, they write books for people. ALL PEOPLE. It is beyond time we recognize that. 
-This is bigger than gender…
Books are what make our lives rich, teach us to be curious, teach us compassion. Our first loves lived in books, our earliest friends played in pages. It’s an absolute tragedy to be kept from the diverse range of voices and experiences out there. Yes, I read books by women for a year, but beyond gender, this experience showed me what amazing literary voices I have lost out on by being stuck to a western white literary canon. 
-This is not just a feminist stance. 

And you know what, I read so many amazing, rich and inspiring books that I may never have laid my hands on if not for this experience. 

So here is my book list from this past school year. 

The Book List :

1.The Orchard By Theresa Weir 
2.The Lives Of Monster Dogs By Kirsten Barkis.
3.The Glass Castle By Jeanette Walls
4.Commencement by J. Courney Sullivan (I spent much of the year cutting up this book and turning it into an art project…in other words, don’t read it). 
5.The Daughter Of The Queen Of Sheba by Jacki Lyden 
6.Going Bovine by Libba Bray
7.Things I Don’t Want to Know by Debra Levy
8.Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans
9.A Map Of The World By Jane Hamilton 
10.Help, Thanks, Wow By Anne Lamott 
11.The Night Book Mobile (Graphic novel) by Audrey Niffennegger 
12.Love, Anger, Madness by Marie Vieux-Chauvet
13.The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
14.The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton
15.Jezebel by Irene Nemirovsky 
16.Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
17. Dog Eaters by Jessica Hagedorn 
18. The Cure For Death By Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz 

So where do I move on from here? I work on creating a more balanced book shelf. I look to empower and support women writers in my community. I constantly evaluate my reading habits and why I choose the books I choose. I do not just randomly grab from shelves, but make sure I’m reading a diverse array of books. I read outside my comfort zone, I read books that didn’t make it into the white male western literary canon. I read the sort of books I want to see on the market more. And I vocally celebrate all bad ass women writers. I invite you to join me!

Want some great resources? Here are some of my favourites!

KT Bradford’s “I challenge you to stop reading white straight cis gendered male authors for one year.”

The 2014 VIDA Count
VIDA looks at whether women are being reviewed in major literary publications, newspapers and magazines each year. (Answer: Not Enough).

Occupy The Syllabus
A call for to evaluate who’s work is on our course syllabi 

A Mighty Girl
A company that only sells products and books written/created by women and/or with the intent of empowering young women

Me, with some of the awesome books I read this school year on my head!

Monday, May 18, 2015

You May Kiss Me In The Poetry Section

I’ve always wanted to be kissed in a bookstore, my body gently pressed against the poetry section. Bookstores are the most romantic of places. They are full of ancient history and secrets, brimming with full bodied sentences and the scent of jasmine wafting out from exotic storyscapes. They are places of escape and content, of danger and peace. In book stores, one gets lost and one finds oneself on shelves that are at once unfamiliar yet make perfect sense. Of course parts of you were left in the Mesopotamia section, its only logical. 

I imagine being looked at in the way I look at books after I finish them, with wonder, gratitude, warmth spreading over my skin, a hand placed at the spine. Or with confusion, with puzzlement. Yes, I want that too. Look at me with confusion, with puzzlement. But mostly with wonder, I want to be looked at with wonder. I want to be lead down the aisles of an old winding book store. The sort of book store where books fall off shelves and you have to side step around piles. Pull books down from the dusty shelves and read random snippets of books read out loud to me, the sentences that make you smile. I want to hear you laugh, laugh before you put your hands to my waist, bow your head towards me. Look at me, look at me with wonder. How did you find this novel of a girl, this little slip of a poem, this curious newspaper clipping? Did you find her in the pages of a book, tucked into the binding? You must have, that’s the only sort of place I really reside.

I sometimes sit on the floors of bookstores, and simply read book titles. I run my fingers across them, this is a form of meditation. If enough words sink into my skin, I will be more whole, I will be of better form. So in my curving train of thought, relationships founded among the shelves of books surely have enough ink to flourish. A silly thought? Probably. Write it down dear, it will last longer. Book stores are the homes of all sorts of longing, all sorts of secrets, all sorts of starts. Mine have only been of the ink variety as of yet, but I am not opposed to the meeting of flesh and star blazed eyes, pressed against the poetry section. Our heads bowed, excuse me Emily Sylvia Plath, excuse me Richard Blanco. Having to make those sort of apologies, oh no, I’m not opposed to that at all, dear. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Which Story Is It?

I know there is a story inside me. But I don’t know which one it is. Have I found it yet? Is it about my two hearted girl, my heart seamstress? Is it the one I wrote lonely, late at night, my hummingbird heart pounding? I wrote it curled in bed, sophomore year, mistranslating my loneliness as a pang for words, for a world balled up inside me, pounding to get out. A mistake I often make, a mistake I never regret. It is hard to be lonely when entire worlds spin inside you, when books whisper the sweetest of secrets. Is it that story, that little novella of fairytale cliches and sugar sweet sentences? It is a story both grandiose and humble, flawed and crystalline. 

Or is the one about a bookstore, the one where people trade in secrets and wishes? Another story about longing, but longing turned to other books. You deposit a secret in the black box, and then you take out a book for your heart ache. Little do you know, your wishes are worming their way into other’s books, into other’s stories. A wild little town, one set by the sea, bright colours. What if revolution really lead to bone deep peace? This story doesn’t belong to one character, though you always thought it did. No, it’s a story of many, a story of a town. A town you call home, turned surreal, turned wild. It has lost its sweet candour. Is this the story I set down to write?

Is it one about the notes scrawled in the margins of a book? A story of madness written alongside one. The Queen of Sheba dressed in blue coats from Gimbel and baked anchovy cookies, while her father painted paint by number masterpieces. 

I know the story inside me wants to blur the lines between faery speak and English. She, for I know she is feminine, wants to dine with doubt, wants to speak with faith. She wants to call her God female, for He has been masculine all her life and she has come to doubt that her God is all that attached to the male pronoun in the first place. She wants her God to be a feminist, to delight in critical theory and have a proper library with leather bound books. Can I write of that God? This God so different from the one I’ve grown up with, I can’t fashion God in my own image. But if I am fashioned in their image I must assume that they aren’t opposed to such ideas. Should I refer to God in my story as they or their, he or her? Will God make an appearance in this story I am trying to write?

Where do I find this story? Do I already have it bundled up, ready to assemble or has it not found its way to me yet? For me, finding a story is like finding a warm ember on a freezing day. I simply hold it, wondrous of its existence, grateful for its presence. But how do I know when it is THE story. The first story, the first novel, Adam and Eve. This is the beginning. How do I know when I have found the beginning of my novel writing days, when I am about to embark on the journey of the lifetime? Do I just have to buy the ticket and hope the journey leads somewhere? I guess so. I’m just having trouble finding the station I leave from. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

On Listening To Pebbles and Guitars

Should I live for one reason?
Should I die for one reason?
But really, have you ever met a pebble, dear?
They are not precious, dear.
They do not take long, deep breaths
The sort of breaths that exhaust the soul
They do not absorb your remains
But they do fit in the palm of hands
slide into pockets

Must I live for one reason?
Must I die for one reason?
Have you heard laughs in the wood, dear?
Little laughs
sometimes gruff
they will ring in your ears through all your wild and soft walks
Did you hear them again? Or are the leaves simply singing?

Should I live for one reason?
Should I die for one reason?
Wouldn't it be simpler to live by ink and die by pen?
They can burn me with my books
They can feed me to the wolves that slink among the library shelves
insufficient sustenance

Have you ever met a pebble, dear?
I, myself, have met many.
And sometimes the right rock is known to bring me to shivers.

Have you heard a guitar cry, love?
Tears need not be visible to contain moisture
Have you heard it laugh?
Those deep sort of prayers that must be collected by someone up there with heavy arms

Must I live for just one reason?
Must I die for just one reason?
Or may I simply sit here on hard surfaces and listen to pebbles?

"I want warm summer nights, to lie in a hammock, staring at the stars, telling you stories. "

"I want warm summer nights, to lie in a hammock, staring at the stars, telling you stories. "
"When asked not to make waves, I just smiled and said, don't worry this is just a ripple"