Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"At First Women Were Reluctant to Talk"

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler
Weight: 9 oz.
Method of disposal: Attempting to give it away through a social networking site. If I cannot I will move on to plan B.

Today, I am parting with my copy of The Vagina Monologues, complete with the highlighting of the fifteen year old I was when I bought it. I saw it on a shelf in the drama section at Waldenbooks when I worked there, and I bought it because of the title. I read the book that same night and loved it. It started a sort of-affair. I went to see college productions of it on a regular basis throughout the years and one time I went with my friend Sarah to see it done by Eve Ensler herself. Later, I would volunteer at an event that hosted Ms. Ensler and Jane Fonda. A whole group of us took a picture I have never seen. I remember Eve Ensler’s hand on my shoulder. Even later, I would go to Charis with a very attractive queer preacher to see her talk about her publication, The Good Body. This is yet another time when I will be disbanding a book from a complete collection of all the books written by an author.
I use to be in awe of Eve Ensler. Can you tell? There has been a gradual letting go of that awe over the last six years and now I have a dull curiosity when I see her name in print. I will continue to read about her and her work. But I also think about that initial collection where a father buys his daughter a vagina—the only intersex narrative in the book—with dismay. She has spoken with students about it for years and compromises have been worked out, but it lingers in my copy and thousands of others. I think of Jakarta, Warsaw, Kenya, and other places where The Vagina Monologues has traveled and the mixture of emotions about it expressed in the feedback—the validity of the feelings of those who loved it and those who hated it. I love talking about sex, bodies, and sexuality. I also recoil from gynocentrism, and its effects on our beliefs about gender and sex as binary systems.
There is a lot good about Eve Ensler and about The Vagina Monologues, and I will never forget my initial love for it. It is time for me to move on now. Looking at my highlights, “My Angry Vagina” was my favorite piece in the collection when I first read it. In hindsight, it is hard to imagine growing up without it. I found this book at the perfect time. It did what, I think, it was intended to do. It helped me fall in love and/or maintain my love for my genitalia—though I do not think my vagina is the truly important component of my anatomy. It pales in comparison to my clitoris, my ears, my neck, and my back.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"I Want to Be the Girl Your Parents Will Use as a Bad Example of a Lady."

The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin
Weight: 8 oz
Method of Disposal: Putting aside to give to my mom when she gets back from Taiwan

The first and the last time I saw Staceyann Chin perform her spoken-word was while I was attending Agnes Scott College. I went down to The Hub with my then-girlfriend to see Doria Roberts, and Staceyann was opening for her. She made the night and hung the moon. She was amazing. It was my first year of college, and I have never forgotten her. I have tried to go to other spoken-word shows in hopes that I would find someone that I enjoyed to the same degree but with no luck. I was very excited when I heard she was coming out with a memoir sometime in 2009.

I was not disappointed. She writes about growing up in Jamaica, moving from place to place. Person to person. Her strength twists throughout the book into a tight and even tighter story of courage, struggle, and passion. Beautiful. Really. I cannot say enough positive about it. I remember when I finished reading the last page. I fell back onto my bed and let it all sink in. Soon, I thought about my mom in Taiwan and immediately wanted to ship it to her. I still haven’t. So this one is for her. This one will stand in your mind with Dorothy Allison. I miss you!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Shane-Phenomenon

Jackie’s Exes by Laurel Faust
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Recycling it on Wednesday unless someone says they want it.

I bought this book eight years ago. Yet again, I was on a desperate search for a book with at least one lesbian character. Unfortunately, the gay and lesbian section at any major bookstore is full of books like Jackie’s Exes and very little else. There is a lot of fun and/or great lesbian literature out there, but it almost seems like if it is any good it is shelved in fiction/literature . Need an example? Jeanette Winterson. Or two? Sarah Waters. Only the worst of the worst is allowed into gay/lesbian –I am not including non-fiction in this rant, though I probably could if I just tinkered with it a bit.
I now read the back of this book and cannot fathom what possessed me to purchase it—probably sheer desperation. It is about a woman that has so many angry ex-girlfriends that they decide to start a support group. I hated it eight years ago, and I cannot even bring myself to read the first page now. The distaste for it has lingered that long. There are a lot of good reviews about it online. I think it is the Shane-phenomenon. People like sexually adventurous lesbians. I do too, but I have some criteria! Jackie’s Exes is on the way to the recycling bin unless someone reading this wants it. Let me know before Wednesday.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

We Never Make Mistakes

“We Never Make Mistakes”: Two Short Novels by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
1963, 71, 96
Method of Disposal: Giving to Vallan

I bought this book while working at a Waldenbooks that was located inside a mall. I got a 33% discount on it, and I did not have a whole lot of bills at the time so I went ahead and bought another book by the same author. My 11th grade English teacher recommended him to me after I developed a particular liking for the usual angsty, teenage favorites—Kurt Vonnegut, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and (I am sad to report) Elizabeth Wurtzel. I hope you are wondering “who is that last one?” She wrote Prozac Nation, among other things. All of which are currently still residing on my bookshelves.

I felt that I loved Russian literature (though I am sure I had only read a handful of things from the region), and I greatly admired my teacher. Her name was Mrs. Galloway, and she was hilarious and wonderful. She gave me a love for southern culture and literature when I thought it was impossible. She described what it was like to be a teacher during the race riots. She lent books to me that she thought I would like, and she was always right. She recommended Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. She truly was incredible. I still have a video of her blowing bubbles in the hallway during a period change, and it makes me smile every time I see it.

I knew this book would go to Vallan as soon as I started this project. I think she has looked at it several times since we met. She loves to read Russian authors, and she recognizes a good book when she sees it (minus those random Evanovich novels she has gotten into recently) so she was the obvious pick. I took pictures of it. I tried to type a blog entry. I put it off. I woke up. Thought about it. Put it off. Put it off. Put it off. I did not want to let it go. I re-read it. I loved it all over again, as will Vallan. I am finally letting it go. As good as it is, I recognize that I am trying to hold onto Mrs. Galloway more than I am the book. I do not need it to remember her and, even if I did, I still have the ones she lent me until it is their time too. This one is special though. I mean, how could you not love a book called We Never Make Mistakes? Really? It draws you in whether you are about to finish up high school and/or if you are in a stagnant and somewhat frightening period of your life where you really have no idea what you are doing.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What To Do Once You Realize You Have an Awful, Loud, Smelly, Nasty, Wonderful, Living, Breathing, Puppy Who Needs You

Dogs: The Ultimate Care Guide by Prevention For Pets
Weight: 2.5 lbs
Method of Disposal: Giving to a woman and her children who just got a new great dane/mastiff puppy—who is also their first dog. They are feeling a little overwhelmed.

*Sabre is one of many shelter pups looking for a good home*

Mondays always seem to bring out droves of people trying to surrender their pets and a couple individuals trying to do the right thing after picking up a stray. I was afraid to walk up to the front desk to see if I left my leash there because I thought I might get trapped yet again, and I had so much to do in the kennels. A woman walked in with three children and an adorable black puppy. She said she had “gotten in over her head.” The puppy was only 2 months old, and I was instantly irritable. How long could see have possibly taken with this dog? How hard could she possibly have tried? I attempted to hand her a list of other shelters and go about my day but, as usual, I couldn’t. We got to talking about training, vaccinations, and just the overall troubles/joys surrounding baby animals.
She was trying. I had to admit that I would not want a puppy. I always prefer adults, and the reason why is because puppies are TOO MUCH WORK. They are all over the place, and they always start off out of control. They grow up to be energetic teenagers that will test you for months/years before they will give you a break. She needed help. She did not know a grunt from a growl and had her children to look out for. She needed some words, a crate, a clicker, and a support system. After she had all of that there still seemed to be something missing—and then I thought about this book. I don’t need it anymore. I have been working with dogs for several years now, and long ago I had read/studied this book. It is time to pass it on. The book covers basic training, health, and socialization. Aside from its support of breeding—a HUGE faux-pas and close to unforgivable if the other information was not so needed—this book has a lot to offer. I could not have found a better family for it. I am really hoping that all these things combined will save this pup’s life, give some kids a best friend, and help the mom manage. She has a lot of people and things to care for and, now, she has a pet.
The whole thing has also taught me a lesson about my own judgment calls and attitudes, and I am very thankful for that. The rest of my day followed the same trend, one surprise after another. Maybe it is because after talking to that first woman I was more open to all the others who walked in the gate or stood in the parking lot. I hope I will be able to update you in the future about this little black puppy. I think the mother will be in contact with me, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I get some good news.

Elephants, Ani D, and Being a Teenager

THE WHITE BONE By Barbara Gowdy
Weight: 11.2 ounces
Method of Disposal: Giving to Skye
I was young, entranced, impressionable, and standing next to one of my closest friends right in front of the stage while Ani Difranco talked and sang , talked and sang. I was in full swoon. It was not the first time I saw her in concert, and it was not the last. I would see her many many times—the last time being in March of this year. At this particular concert, when I was much younger and standing next to my dearest buddy, Ani D. raved about a book she had just finished entitled, The White Bone. She said every one should read it, and I am one of every so I bought it as soon as I could.
I read the first four pages, lost interest, and put it down. I despised anthropromorphizing. I did not pick it up again for quite a few more years. I studied in college, I graduated, I began working at the animal shelter, and I surrounded myself with animals in my own home. It still rubs me the wrong way when I read a book that is written from the point of view of an animal. It usually comes off as self-righteous and over-the-top. I am much more inclined to give these books a chance now than I use to be. I read it. I learned a lot about elephants. I struggled. I cannot say I enjoyed the novel. I am not sure that it was bad—all the reviews compare it to Watership Down, which I do like—but I could not get into it. I felt that I was asked to assume too much and, in some ways, I felt like the descriptions were the same old shit put to a new story. It all felt so “tribal” in the way that the colonizer sees the tribe. It was painful and important. Does that makes any sense? Elephants are too incredible to be dull, but they are enough to me on their own without all the ridiculous Land Before Time moments(not that I am denying my deep and unending love for The Land Before Time).
I am curious to know what Skye thinks about the novel, and I am somewhat anxious to discuss it with her. I am hoping that she can give me the insight I need to really appreciate it. I feel like I should. Is it just because of that solitary moment with Ani D? Am I still 13? Will Skye be caught in a similar trap? We will see.

"I Walk the Dark and Dangerous Streets of L.A. Gangland."

Christopher Pike—
The Last Vampire (when it is located)
The Last Vampire 2: Black Blood (1994)
The Last Vampire 3: Red Dice (1995)
The Last Vampire 4: Phantom (1996)
The Last Vampire 5: Evil Thirst (1996)
The Last Vampire 6: Creatures of Forever (1996)
Magic Fire (1999)
The Visitor (1995)
Weight: 1 lb.
Method of Disposal: Giving to Vallan
There is nothing like a good Christopher Pike book to get you reading when you are a pre-teenager/teenager—so you might think I would do the reasonable thing and give my collection to one of the vampire-loving fanatics born from the Twilight phenomena. The problem is that Pike’s books offer a very different message than the popular series written by Stephanie Myers and either the kids and/or their parents reject my books when I offer them up. Pike had a way of treating his young readers like they were deserving of entertainment, drama, and truth. He did not shy away from the sexual undertones that made his books so important to me as a youth. I remember reading Gimme a Kiss several times because one of the main characters was bisexual and, even though she was a psycho, I felt like I could find myself somewhere in those pages if I read close enough and overlooked quite a lot. The Last Vampire series were the best though. The books are focused on a sexy, strong female lead named Alisa who is a vampire being tracked by the FBI who want to turn the world into blood-sucking monsters.
I am not trying to claim that The Last Vampire series is a feminist legacy or even that it is empowering, but at least the main female character has a voice. Alisa does not exist to take what, in any other context, would amount to abuse like our dear little Bella who is surrounded by creepy men that stalk her and destroy her property, aka the people she is infatuated with. The series also does not seem to be “abstinence porn”—a name given to Twilight by Bitch Magazine.
I am relinquishing my remaining Christopher Pike books to the woman who already has all the other ones I use to have, and to the woman who has wanted my Last Vampire books since the day she saw them on my bookshelf. I knew I was starting to love Vallan when she took each one off the shelf to re-read because she thought they were just as brilliant as I did. We were supposed to be focusing on our finals so that we could graduate college, and there she was reading Christopher Pike in bed during our all-nighters. She was very distracting. I have always been attracted to strong female leads.

10 Cent Comic Books and Exchanging Letters

Maus by Art Spiegelman
Weight: 1.5 lbs
Method of Disposal: Shipped to my grandmother
I have always sent letters to my grandmother, but it was not until my own mom moved to Taiwan that we started a full-on exchange. I am loving it. We write to each other about different things, but we always mention the books we are reading at the time. The woman has read almost everything—whether you mention a classic piece of literature, a contemporary short story, or a new book on animal emotions. I recently wrote to her about Maus, which also led me to mention the brilliant Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy by Alison Bechdel. Two popular graphic novels that are popular for good reasons. I found Maus, but I could not track down Fun Home. This project has led me to search for various books that I loved and, apparently, lost mysteriously. It has been frustrating because I want to write about them, but it is also amusing because it almost validates the whole thing. I had not even realized they were gone until I was ready to let them go.
I am going to send Maus to her by way of the USPS. I have been looking at it a lot lately—not wanting to let it go. Today, I received a card from her in response to mine about the graphic novels. She told me about how she learned to read with 10 cent comic books when she was a child. She said she became interested in classical novels after reading several of them in comic book form. Les Miserables was the first classic comic that she read, and she was mesmerized. This woman’s life is a huge collection of incredible stories, and she always has a new one to tell me that I have not heard before. I am enthralled by all of them.
Maus was an excellent book about the Holocaust, surviving the Holocaust, and being the child of a survivor of the Holocaust. It was beautiful and intense. I could not stop reading it for anything. It is the author’s honesty about his own actions, attitude, and irritation that really separate the book from others. It is a careful examination of multiple people and the diversity of methods people have to deal with their lives and hardships. The book I have is the complete Maus, books 1 and 2. I am curious to know what she will say about it, but I know she will be impressed. It is hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t be. In case you haven’t picked up on it already, I recommend reading it.

For Lack of a Better...

Intersex (for lack of a better word) by Thea Hillman
Weight: 7.2 oz
Method of Disposal: Re-Selling

I think the first mistake I made with Intersex (for lack of a better word) was that I somehow all together neglected the label memoir above the isbn number on the back of the book, the synopsis on the back describing it as a memoir, and every single thing that SCREAMED memoir. I was not in the mood for a memoir. The second mistake I made was falling asleep with the book in the bathtub. Don’t worry, I made it out alive and the book is still readable even if it is a little less attractive.
Intersex is not a bad, useless, or unnecessary book. It is quite the opposite but, again(see post on Jack), I think I just got to it a little too late. I was already looking for something else by the time I purchased it, brought it home, and began reading it. Intersex is such a broad umbrella term, and I had read almost everything I could get my hands on that is shaded underneath it. I think that because it is such a broad term it is not uncommon for authors to focus almost exclusively on their personal lives to avoid overstepping boundaries or to fall too deeply into “science” and statistics trying to distance themselves from the emotions that can be invoked with their writing. There are also the people that really don’t know what they are talking about, of course. Thea Hillman writes about going through her life, feeling and being treated like an intersex person and also not feeling intersex enough. Something that can happen when you get a bunch of different people together with different lives and situations—things can get a little messy. This book isn’t just about being intersex either. It is about being human, being pro-sex/pro-consent, being connected, activism, and so much more. It really is good. It shows the reader human complexity.
I went to an all-women’s private college where I was president of the LBTQIA club for a couple years, and I remember when the club hosted one of several events about intersex awareness. The flyers posted to advertise were generic INSA flyers with some statistics and nothing flashy. People got upset. They wrote hate words on the flyers hanging in the elevator, and they made jokes about starting a straight club. I guess they decided not to read any of the information on the flyer and were conflating intersex with other ideas they had about gay/lesbian/bisexual people. Whatever was going on—it was absurd. How are you going to hate on people who identify as intersex? What is it, exactly, they have done? We are not only attached to our given gender roles but our absurd ideas on sex are so important to us that we become absolutely illogical—so much so that sometimes we cannot even bring ourselves to read a sentence or two on a flyer. This book is important because of the above and because, in most groups I find myself in, people tell me they do not know what intersex is and/or they do not know how to talk about it in a way that is useful. The book is an easy, fast, and personal read. I recommend giving it a glance. I am re-selling it, but if you feel that it would be more useful in someone else’s hands please let me know. I will give it to you.

Lolita is Such a Lovely Name

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
1955, 1997
Weight: 10 oz.
Method of Disposal: What do you think I should do with it?
I was recently chatting with my mom, and she mentioned that she had just finished reading Lolita. She has spoken of her admiration for Nabokov for as long as I can remember but, apparently, without ever having read his most popular work. She was horrified to discover that a young girl is raped by an adult man in the story. I was stunned. Do we live in different worlds? Lolita has infiltrated regular society. The novel has been made into a movie twice, stirring up controversy each time. The word “nymphet” has been written into some dictionaries and is a term included in many people’s vocabularies. “Lolita” has become directly associated with the sexualization of teenage girls. It is used in news articles, scholarly journals, and in pornography. Sometimes, it is hard to imagine the world pre-Lolita. After I hung up the phone I turned to a friend of mine to express my surprise at my mother’s surprise, and the friend stared at me blankly. She asked me what the novel was about. O.k. So, I was wrong about everyone having read and/or seen Lolita.
Why is it that I was so shocked to hear that two people I know were not inundated with Lolita-inspired text ? Have I been exposed to more instances where the name “Lolita” would be used a descriptor? Probably. I graduated with a double major in Women’s Studies and English literature/Creative Writing. Lolita came up from time to time.
I laughed with my mother, and told her that it was good that she had not known what the novel was about when I was 13 or else she would not have let me read it. She said, “damn right, I wouldn’t have.” Oh well. I did read it then and I have read it since and, despite myself, I like it. I do not see Lolita as a conniving seductress, and I do not find it to be “wildly funny” as Time claimed, but I am glad that I read it. I will always remember it. As, almost everyone knows (being a little more careful about wide sweeping claims now), Nabokov has a way with language. He was proud of his novel. He is also accurate in claiming that he made Lolita an obsolete name for a little girl—which, in my opinion, is somewhat unfortunate as it is a beautiful name. Child Protective Services would probably be ready to ask you some questions before you even left the hospital if you suggested that one to the doctor.
My copy of Lolita has seen some hard times. It has been trapped underneath the junk a teenager collects in a room where objects have been strewn with careless abandon, it has been bent in boxes where it was poorly packed for multiple moves, and it was in a tangle with a dog. It has stood strong though. It looks worn, but the binding is firm. It is completely readable, and it is time for it to go on its way to someone else. Any suggestions on how I should disband this one?
NOTE: I am glad to report that I got a phone call from a friend within minutes of posting this. She asked me not to get rid of Lolita. I asked her if she wanted it. She said no, she has two copies already. But everyone should have a copy. Still, Lolita has to go.

Favorite Person of Anybody?

Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations by Jeffrey Brown
Weight: 4.8 oz
Method of Disposal: Giving away to a friend/volunteer at the shelter

I am embarrassed to admit that I bought Cat Getting Out of a Bag only several months ago, and I am already getting rid of it. This book is well worth the money I spent on it, and I probably would have kept it forever if I had not started this project and/or met Gail. This cat book of illustrations is h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s. I have not lived with a cat in over 6 years, and I am sure that I will not have one for many more years to come—I am allergic and the dogs would not allow it. However, I work with them and I think the author of this book gets what living with a cat is all about. 100%.
Gail is an incredible volunteer and woman. She has worked for the shelter longer than I have. She is also a huge fan of the felines. She has two at home that are the most spoiled animals I have ever heard about in my life—and I hear some intense pet stories from people every day. When I think of Gail, for whatever reason, I think of the short film by Miranda July called “Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody?” I do not think of it because it truly relates to her, but because if someone asked her that question she might be able to answer with my name. She will be walking the big dawgs with me tomorrow—she cannot bring herself to visit the cats—and that is when I will hand her the kitty masterpiece illustrated/created by Jeffrey Brown. If you need a summary here it is: Cats are neurotic and, often, adorable.

3/4 of All Phone Calls This Month Will Be About Kittens

Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America by Nathan J. Winograd
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Donate

We are in the midst of “kitten season.” It is one of the most dreaded times of the year at the animal shelter. Every other phone call is about kittens that have been found in a drain pipe, in a car, in an attic. They call saying their cat had kittens or their friend’s cat has a new litter. They cannot keep them, but they don’t want them to go to a dreaded kill shelter. They come in from one day old to 12 years old (or older), a neverending flow of cats. It is heartbreaking. 29,612 cats and dogs were euthanized last year in just five Metro Atlanta County Shelters. That is only five counties, and it does not include animals euthanized in non-county shelters or the animals that die of starvation, animal maulings, traffic-inflicted wounds, and so on. These animals deserve better. Much better.
Today I am donating Redemption. I read this book when I first began working at a no-kill shelter, and I have since seen the author speak. Nathan Winograd travels the country giving talks about how we can become a no-kill nation. He believes in the strength of a community and warns against becoming bogged down in it’s weaknesses. I am putting it in a box of donated items, but if anyone reading this blog would like it please let me know. I would be glad to let you read it before sending it off. The writing is not incredible, but the message is important. He does not focus on independent no-kill shelters, but describes the process of making county pounds no-kill—something often considered to be impossible.
Until next time, please spay/neuter your pets and ALWAYS adopt. There is no reason to buy a pet when thousands of beautiful, sweet, and healthy living creatures are killed on a daily basis. No shelter can take on the burden of pet homelessness alone. We have to come together. Volunteer answering phones in a shelter for one day—most people will leave crying.

Where Do Cookbooks Come From?

Recipes: Volume 1 by Lamlighter’s Cove Garden Club
Cheap. Fast. Good! By Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross
How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman
WEIGHT: 5 lbs

It has been several days since I have written or given away a book. I cannot have many breaks like that if this project is ever to be finished. Tonight, I have set aside 5 lbs of cookbooks for a co-worker, friend, and super-amazing woman that inspires me daily. She recently moved into a new house with her family, and is in the process of starting a new life. She has been talking more about trying new recipes and cooking. I also talk to her about the library project from time to time over the phone. She is supportive of most things I do, even if they are a little ridiculous. Any who, it has been decided that the cookbooks will be in the best hands with her. I hope she uses them more than I did.
I am never sure how cookbooks come into my life. I am almost confident that I have never purchased one. I wonder if they are not all second-hand gifts and, here I am, sending them along like everyone else. I have carried quite a few around for years, always with the idea that I would eventually get in the habit of using them. This never seems to happen—whether I have them stacked up in the kitchen or on the bookshelves in the living room.
Unless cookbooks are designated vegetarian on the cover they are rarely vegetarian-friendly, almost always centering meals on a meat dish. There are always plenty of side dishes and desserts, but it always feels sort of like scrounging. I think I will stick to the Veganomicons of this world and even those seem to sit untouched for months.
It is not that I don’t cook. I do. I often make the same or similar dishes over and over again until I am forced to learn something new. Or I get some produce from the local farm and then go online to see what to do with it. I choose meals based on what I have in my fridge, rather than purchasing certain food items to make a pre-planned meal.
I hope that this wonderful person with her family and a desire to branch out, trying new things in the new house will not follow in my footsteps. I think she could make a lot of really great dinners and have fun doing it. Even better, maybe someone else in the family will learn how to cook a few things and treat her to a much deserved dinner after work.

Rape: Sex Violence History

Rape: Sex Violence History by Joanna Bourke
Weight: 1.6 pounds
Method of Disposal: Re-selling—I make less than a living wage. I can’t give them all away!

This book is 441 pages documenting the history of sexual violence + 124 pages of notes. That is some heavy reading. It is much heavier than 1.6 lbs. The author, Joanna Bourke, attempts to put the focus on the rapist, rather than the victim. This is not often done in other writings on the subject. She argues against the idea that a rapist is born defective, stating that they become rapists as they go through their lives. This takes the pressure off victims and puts it on perpetrators, again something that we do not see often in the US and UK. These are the two regions Bourke focuses on. This book is packed with information, and I am glad I read it. I do not, however, feel that Bourke spends enough time discussing the feminist framework she uses to analyze the mass amount of data she collected. You can become bogged down in it all.
Rape takes place in a continuum of violence. If I take a second to think about the women I surround myself with I can come up with quite a few of them that have been raped/ sexually assaulted and every single one of them has experienced sexual harassment—and often. It becomes such a part of your life that sometimes it becomes difficult to classify as heinous or inappropriate. It is just the norm, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. Unfortunately, it becomes the norm for the oppressors too. So much so that they cannot recognize that they are part of the oppressing class and/or that they have ever supported a rape culture.
This book alone will not give you a clear understanding of what exactly it means to live in a rape culture, but it will expose the bricks that make the structure. It can be very painful to read and to examine, but it needs to be done. I am re-selling this book online and hoping it goes to someone who will read every word of it, not just skim it.

National Animal Consumption Month

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Weight: 1.2 lbs
Method of Disposal: Giving to ex-girlfriend

“In the typical cage for egg-laying hens each bird has 67 square inches of space—the size of the rectangle above. Nearly all cage free birds have approximately the same amount of space.”
I was driving to the animal shelter when NPR informed me it was National Hamburger Month. It was around 7:30 am, and there was a lot of talk about a “Ghetto Burger” that you can buy at Ann’s in Atlanta. This acclaimed burger has two “fist-sized” patties, bacon, chili, cheese, seasoning, and whatever “salad” you want on top. It was made famous by a Wall Street Journal reporter, and long lines of people have continued to come to get a taste of it ever since.
A quick search of the internet also let me know that it is National BBQ month and National Egg Month. May is pretty hoppin’ when it comes to celebrating the consumption of animals. In case you were curious, October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. Do note how only one of these four month-long celebrations includes the word “awareness.” The majority of Americans are raised to eat meat and many of us question it only when we are young. We are then given the excuses, the demands, the reprimands, and the overall socializing necessary to keep us eating animals for the rest of our lives.
In honor of National Hamburger/BBQ/Egg Month I am disbanding Eating Animals from the library. This is a book that exposes the horror of factory farms and not just for the animals but also for the people who are unknowingly eating filth. Safran Foer talks to multiple farmers with a variety of ideas on how to produce a more humane, healthier meat industry. He also speaks with a vegetarian involved in the slaughter of farm animals and writes about his personal struggles in becoming a vegetarian.
Safran Foer writes:
today a typical pig factory farm will produce 7.2 million pounds of manure annually, a typical broiler factory will produce 6.6. million pounds, and a typical feedlot 344 million pounds….All told, farmed animals in the United States produce 130 times as much waste as the human population—roughly 87,000 pounds of shit per second. The polluting strength of this shit is 160 times greater than raw municipal sewage. And yet there is almost no waste-treatment infrastructure for farmed animals…(174).
And about battery cages he writes this analogy:
Step your mind into a crowded elevator, an elevator so crowded you cannot turn around without bumping into (and aggravating) your neighbor. The elevator is so crowded you are often held aloft. This is a kind of blessing, as the slanted floor is made of wire, which cuts into your feet
After some time, those in the elevator will lose their ability to work in the interest of the group. Some will become violent; others will go mad. A few, deprived of food and hope, will become cannibalistic.
There is no respite, no relief. No elevator repairman is coming. The doors will open once, at the end of your life, for your journey to the only place worse {see: PROCESSING} (47).
I could pull out more and more from this book. I could pull out so much you would beg me to stop or you would just quit reading. I could give you some quotes about “processing” and “cosmetic blemishes.” All of the above and all of those things I am not inserting here were flying through my mind first thing this morning, on my way to the shelter, when I heard it was National Hamburger Month. Those three words sound like 87,000 pounds of shit per second to me.

The Birthday Bundle

The First Bundle:
1. A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Coloring Book
2. Drinking, Smoking, and Screwing: Great Writers on Good Times edited by Sarah Nickles
3. Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant by Andrea Dworkin
4. The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, Empathy—and Why They Matter by Marc Bekoff
5. Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It by Elizabeth Royte
6. The Law of Sex Discrimination J. Ralph Lindgren and Nadine Taub
7. Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
Weight: 5 lbs
Method of Disposal: Birthday gift for a truly amazing friend

I have been lucky enough to be able to surround myself with book-loving individuals for the last decade. I have been thinking about all of them a lot lately, and I have begun to gather bundles for each one of them. As I place one stack on the table for someone in particular a book will grab my attention from across the room that will remind me of someone else I should gather for. Today, I am writing about a special bundle. I have a friend that I have known since 5th grade, and her birthday is coming up this week. I give her used books on her birthday often, and I do not see why this year should be any different. Unfortunately, she is one of three people who read this blog. Just know you’re special even though I am spoiling the surprise!
I have picked out the assortment of books listed above for the following reasons:
1. We all need to color from time to time, and I know this woman is a coloring beast when she wants to be.
2. This book belonged to her almost ten years ago. I borrowed it and never gave it back—something I really only ever did to her and no one else. The book, itself, was not even all that wonderful, but the title made up for anything it was lacking.
3. I admire Andrea Dworkin so much, though I am not at all anti-pornography. In fact, I am quite the opposite. Her autobiography was strong, bitter, and beautiful. I read it on a road trip to Florida and loved it. I know “Grapenut” (names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved) will love it too.
4. I read The Emotional Lives of Animals recently, and I think it is time for Grapenut to get even more into animal-related and animal rights books. The story of Jasper, the bear, who lived in a “crush cage” left me with so much despair. I have never quite moved on. The last time I was drinking with said friend I began crying while discussing the bear and soon moved into the mass murder of dolphin families. The night ended quickly from there.
5. There are not many things that can compete with how scary the water business is. I think everyone in the United States needs a lesson on bottled water, large water businesses, and the cruelty surrounding all of it. I know that if Grapenut reads this book she will have even more information to spread to others—she knows a lot of people so she is the best person for it. If she talks, hundreds will hear.
6. I bought this book for a Women and the Law class while I was in college. It is a textbook and may not always make for exciting reading, but there is a ton of important information inside.
7. Do I even need to explain this one? I will try. It is Freckle Juice by Judy Blume. Dig it?

The Homes Collection

Jack by A.M. Homes
Weight: 9. 6 oz.
Method of Disposal: Left in a public place

I have decided to challenge my dedication to my personal cause today by leaving behind a book written by one of my favorite authors, A.M. Homes. I made a special effort to own every novel, collection of short stories, and sliver of writing I could find that was written by this woman. The first novel of hers that I read was The End of Alice, which is a novel narrated by a pedophile and the murderer of a child. I was eating broccoli while reading it in the living room of my father’s house, and I remember that I could not eat broccoli for months after finishing the book. The memory of the story seemed interwoven with the food, and it made me sick. That is one of my absolute favorite novels. But this entry is about Jack.
Jack is the story of a teenage boy coming to terms with the fact that his father is gay. It was the first book published by A.M. Homes, and it became a major motion picture. It is not my favorite by the author, but it is still difficult to see it departed from its brethren. I feel like I am missing a part of myself and a huge chunk of the library.
I believe that Jack is a novel that did not come to me at the right time. I read it after savoring several other Homes novels, and I felt it did not compare to them. I think that if it had stood alone I would have appreciated it more. I also “came out” as a queer woman when I was 13 and spent many hours, days, weeks scrounging up all the gay/lesbian literature I could find. I read too many coming out stories, some horrible short fiction, and a lot of traumatic personal narratives. I loved them until I ran out of love and then I grew resentful. Was there nothing I could read that was lesbian-focused, lesbian-directed, but not tacky/trite/terrible? I was bored. I believe that Jack stands as a great story and as a gay story, but I wanted more than that by the time I got my hands on it. I was completely sick of movies, books, and academic journal articles dedicated to gay men. Where were the ladies?! The transgender folk?! I needed more.
Even now, years later, I get on Netflix to rent a gay/lesbian movie and dread what will appear on the screen. I enjoy movies about gay/bisexual men, but I crave something else. I sift through pages of pictures of half-naked men and all sorts of penis innuendo to find a handful of lesbian movies which usually include multiple clich├ęs and flat characters that are often plumbers with “good hands,” drug addicts, and/or dancers of some sort.
Any who, I guess what I am trying to say is this: I love A.M. Homes because she is talented and, yes, somewhat shocking. Jack is wonderful but feels a little too mundane and too much like what I am bombarded with in my everyday life. I think this book should be given to teenagers everywhere. I think that is where it will do its best work. I wish my own book luck on its travels, and I hope it ends up with someone who loves it even more than I did. Goodbye little Jack Jack.

How Did the Porcupine Get His Quills?

Just So Stories By Rudyard Kipling, Illustrated by Helen Ward
2001 (originally published in 1902)
Weight: Almost one pound
Method of Disposal: Shipping to Colorado as a gift for my niece
I will never forget lying on the cool hardwood floors of the “new” house in Duluth while my brother read Just So Stories to me. That house was always the “new house” even though we lived there for years, but it was the second house we lived in together. He had just written a story inspired by Rudyard Kipling for his 5th grade class, and he was very proud. I was in awe of him, which was not unusual for the time. Having never been exposed to Kipling, I thought my brother had just come up with an amazing hypothesis about why porcupines have spines—the original rodent fell off a tree into a pile of needles. I am sure the porcupine did something selfish to be in that predicament in the first place. Those animal ancestors were always acting up.
Every time I see this collection on my shelf, in a store, or made into photocopies I think of my brother who is now grown, in the military, and living in Colorado with his wife. They will have their first daughter, Bella, in a matter of months. Kipling is entertaining and clever no matter what your age is. This book made my brother seem mystical to me and, even though I know better now, I can still feel that wonder working its way through my body each time I read one of the Just So Stories. This hardback copy with color pictures belongs in Colorado where it can wait for little Bella to grow up to believe in morals, the emotionality of animals, and the true brilliance of her father.

The First Book to Go

Dick For a Day Editor: Fiona Giles 1997
Method of disposal: Couldn't give away/recycling
Weight: 11.4 oz

This is the first book to go because I have to wean myself off this ownership thing slowly. This is very scary for me. I thought Dick for a Day had so much potential when I discovered it in the women’s studies section. Let’s transcend the social constructs of sex and, yes, also gender. It was lackluster and ultimately disappointing. I was let down, but here is the perfect example of me keeping a book, moving a book, displaying a book that had little to no effect on me. Why would I do that? Because it was a gift? Because it could have been better? Because it usually costs $19.00 (1 cent + shipping online) if purchased from a retail chain? Because it cannot be sold for a real profit and would probably just be thrown out if donated?
I received this book as a Christmas gift several years ago. My aunt bought it for me after seeing it on a wish list I had put together in a few minutes on demand, and she actually chose it, even as it stood amongst whatever non-genitalia related others! I do not think there are many other people in my family that would actually walk into a bookstore, pick up this book, maybe even ask for it, and then purchase it from a real cashier. The woman I was named after did. I was so happy. I felt understood and excited. She laughed at me when she handed it over and that made me happy too. I think I can remember that feeling without hauling around the extra 11.4 oz.
And by the by, I had a “dick for a day.” You can actually buy them at some stores and whip them out whenever you feel the inclination. It didn’t change my life, my sexual preference, or my self-confidence. Sometimes it is fun to have around. What would you do?