Dismantling: Searching for Meaning

This morning I spied the fog is rolling in, just like that the sky has turned from crystal blue to opaque whiteness. Mine is the last residential street in Oakland, edged off by an unsightly freeway ramp. The other side the hubbub of a bustling port transports clothes, shoes, food, cars, oil, and electronics. One side of the block is under construction, all plywood and slab—luxury living at ¼ the size but three times the price of a modest home in one of the elusive battleground states. My neighborhood is a contradiction. The other side is speckled with wonderful Victorian row houses, a reminder of a time when this was a solidly middle-class neighborhood, where families thrived before red lines were drawn and redevelopment came crashing through. Further down a shanty-like network of lean-to’s, tents, tiny homes and sheds create a safe haven for our unhoused neighbors who are wedged against chain link fences waiting for the world to take notice and help.

Words like bubble, inner city, hell, gentrification are the descriptors for this street, but this is my neighborhood, I live here with my family, just like so many other decent humans. In this past year, I’ve put my energy towards acquainting myself with the politics and the community, both of these are a challenge but worth the time. There is no single word, no demographic term that accurately describes my little space on this Earth, monolithic we’re not, rather a complex community, in need of specialized services and a new form of progressive development that will require leadership that is sorely missing in the bluest city, in the bluest county, in the bluest state. I can’t stop thinking, still reeling from this election, trying to parse out what has gone wrong, why I wasn’t heard, who I wasn’t listening too. For the first time in a long time I feel our politicians have abandoned us on so many levels, party politics has left us in the lurch and I see clearly that the change we wish to see is within us. The time is now, no more waiting around. There are no heroes, no symbols or catchy slogans that will save us. Just our solidarity and resistance.

Since election day the weather has been unseasonably warm and quite literally the only bright spot that was hard to overlook during these very uncertain times. I started off 11/8 filled with optimism, and proudly stated to my friends online that I love my city, my job my country, my family and friends and those feelings didn’t dissolve on 11/9. But optimism is replaced with resolve. I’m trying to dig deep because mistakes were made, I feel duped, misinformed, and mistaken. My critical eye has re-focused, I no longer trust the same sources of information that spoon-fed me comfortable doses of anesthetic in the form of snarky satire and refreshable data feeds. To be frank, it’s not all that important to cling to the same sources that threw us off our game. But I do expect more from the campaigners and politicians who let the wolf into the henhouse and implore they do as much soul-searching as their constituents. But I have my plan, I’ve replaced podcasts and radio news with music, comments online with in-person conversation, and mainstream media with history.

The weekend after the election, tears still well up, my stomach keeps dropping, another musician has left us. If there was ever a time for poetry and music it is now. Emotions are hard to contain as Leonard Cohen’s gravelly baritone rolls out poetry so apropos it feels like another punch to a bruised soul:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

It’s through this process of grieving, hearing words strung together with a marksman-like accuracy, that I start the process of healing. I’m not moping or wallowing because I need to stay energized. Of course, I’m unsure, not fearful but on edge, anxious but resigned. I’m filled with concern for the vulnerable and the foundational freedoms of my country that is once again struggling with its legacy of inequality. The reckoning has arrived and it’s not in the form we’d expected. But I’m still here. So are you.

Dismantling my liberal echo chamber: Part 1 of many


I am still processing and these thoughts are just a sketch, a journal entry I share with you all for some reason. It’s not meant to sway or change opinions or even garner clicks or follows. Maybe it can be used to diagnose the downfall of our country or the unraveling (or enlightening) of a sad liberal.  Don’t take much heed in what I say, for as of today, I am stripped of knowledge. All I know is that Donald Trump will be the president of my beloved country. We have no clue what is coming next, none. I think it will be something we can’t contemplate because that’s the lesson of history. I am not going to speculate any further, rather, I am going to be watchful. I am going to listen hard.

But one thing I am clear on is that I have never been so wrong, never felt so misguided and duped as I have these past few days. This election has shaken apart my belief system, I feel like my head snapped back in a form of political whiplash. A friend of mine said, “I feel stunned and simultaneously stupid for feeling stunned.” I couldn’t have said it better. I’m pretty quick to admit when I’ve fucked up. It’s probably from all the practice. In the past, I have let my mistakes eat me up, spit me out and ground to a pulp. But now I’m older, I’m a quick study. When I make a mistake, I lather up with humility, get introspective, and ready for problem-solving. This is a challenge and can make little sense, and may not result in much. But I do believe, that a crisis like the one we’re facing today is an opportunity in a weird way, I just don’t know what it is yet.

By midnight on Nov. 8, my blind spots cracked wide open and I still feel very raw. I take on the challenge of this indelible moment in history to ask questions, sit with what happened and try to understand how I missed the signs. They were there, all around. I’m still poking at cracks in the system but without as much guidance from the media and tastemakers. So I take this on as an amateur, as an unpublished writer, as someone hurting and wanting to hone my own ideas! I hope that I can write as clearly as I can without influence, although that is impossible I know. My posts going forward will not have media links or quotes from famous journalists. I have abandoned them until they reckon their irresponsible ways and figure out how to report information.

It’s only been two full days so it’s possible this current assessment is still riddled with bias, but so far what I’ve gathered from my own brain is that my error in judgment during this election season has a few layers; 1. I stopped listening to my inner voice; 2. I had an over-reliance on opinion makers and corporate media; 3. I didn’t talk to anyone on the “other side” in person; 4. I let fear cloud my judgment; 5. I fell into a binary trap. (My side/Their side).

While I was so wrapped in fear that a threatening man would take the highest office in the US, I got lost in the fog and couldn’t see my worst fear materializing. I didn’t see it coming because I didn’t want to see it. Surely people would think the way I thought? I was so certain. But I knew, deep down inside, I could feel the tug in my mind–You’re not seeing the whole picture. But ignored it, I read every article in my favorite liberal papers, clicked hundreds of links, traded music for political podcasts, refreshed data feeds, played with charts and graphs and projections. Validate, validate, validate. I felt so informed, I knew what was going to happen! Look at me I just read a 10,000-word essay in the New Yorker. Oh, but I ignored George Saunders’ accurate portrayal of Trump supporters and thought those folks are just the fringe, the center will unify. Yay, I am a centrist!

I tried to talk to others about my concerns early on, I was worried we had a candidate that wouldn’t resonate. But then fell back into the liberal trap when I was convinced otherwise, it’s not her style, it’s not who she is, and she is competent. Don’t be sexist. Don’t compare her to Michelle Obama or Elizabeth Warren, that’s not fair. But I knew my candidate would suppress voter enthusiasm. And in the final stretch, in a bit of mania, or maybe a weird subconscious epiphany, I rushed around and made last minute calls to Florida and donated money to trump hate. Like all of us, I obsessively checked Nate Silver for comfort. And I think back to last week, I must’ve known something in my gut. But I kept telling everyone, oh look at this amazing chart, it’s so in the bag! Don’t worry we’re gonna win this. But why did I feel afraid?

And come on, I know better. I have worked to fight against corrupt corporate media and now I was consuming terabytes of information like a gluttonous information junkie. I wore out my eyes, got carpal tunnel from clicking and swiping, paid hundreds of dollars for data usage fees, but convinced myself it’s all worth it. What just happened? Ah the fog, the smoggy foggy lies, lulled me into their trap. Dammit.

So, today I will say, I have no answers. But maybe, just maybe, we need to find new ways to crack through the rhetoric on each side. I don’t know how yet or if it’s even plausible. I am not shirking or hiding or sulking. I am just scanning the landscape, still soaking this all in because I don’t ever want to repeat the same grievous mistake of believing in propaganda. For let’s call the media on both sides what it is, biased information created to push a certain political narrative. I was lulled into comfort by the drug of information and I’m on the worst come down ever. And I know what to do, I gotta cut off my pushers, reduce the mind control, and extract myself from a toxic situation.

But I have hope too. Again, I am not advocating a thing. Please take the time to figure out what you need to do for yourself. But on day one I unfollowed and unsubscribed from every mainstream media source that fed me spoonfuls of misinformation. Already it’s made a huge difference reducing the chatter in my social feeds, at best I feel cool that I’m not giving into clickbait. I am not going to analyze the whys and what’s of the data. I tried to listen to a podcast and lasted six minutes before feeling disillusioned. Without any thought to their own errors, they launched right back into the same punditry, trying to figure out the other side, who voted for Trump, their motivations, etc. etc. etc. They admitted the professionals were wrong, but then didn’t take responsibility for passing on the information from the same professionals. Had they learned nothing?!

So meanwhile, I plan to hang out with people in real life more often. I am going to rely on nature, art and family for solace. For me it’s a time of healing. I will fight too, but I am kinda over people screaming at me to speak out, accusing me that I’m complicit unless I start fighting right now! My whole life has been a fight, I’ve lived with racism and sexism for ages, so has my family. I am glad white liberals are wide awake, but trust me us brown folk knew that people want us gone, hate crimes are nothing new. Also, I have this feeling we don’t really know what we need to fight against specifically. Once I see the true battle lines drawn I will be ready to take my position to fight for moral justice. I will wait to see what organizations need donations after I assess needs. But right now, I am recharging. I do feel something is going to happen, something not so good but we don’t know what it is yet. I feel it in my bones. For whatever that means. Remember, I know nothing.  

Yes, the day has come! I’m with her.



Yeah, yeah yeah…uhh so four months ago I wrote a blog about my dislike of Hillary and why I wasn’t going to vote for her. Little did I know that my eight-year-old daughter and our cat were way ahead of me in their support for Hillary. Way back then, and boy does it seem forever ago, I was all in for Bernie. His grassroots campaign, the progressive values he represents, yes even his blustery speaking style, appealed to me over Hillary. I jumped on the Bernie train early on, so after supporting him this past year, I got teary when Bernie asked the DNC to nominate Hillary. I was relieved he handled the transition with grace, as I didn’t side with fervent Bernie supporters demanding a contested convention. Yes, even after DNC leaks. I was proud to vote for him, but more importantly, I feel triumphant to see the influence of progressive issues on the Democratic party platform. I am still a Bernie Democrat but as of this week, I am whole-heartedly “With Her”.

What tipped the scale for me was watching the Republican National Convention, and the amount of hate spewed directly at her was horrifying. I knew they disliked her but it got crazy. I cringed through just a few speeches, but watching Rudy Guiliani’s frenzied mania, the chants to “lock her up” and accusations of her allegiance with Lucifer was enough. My response was empathy and protectiveness towards Hillary. Watching all those white men freak out about her made it clear that I had to support her and fight misogyny. I hope the RNC knows how badly it backfired, I’m not the only woman to feel this way. I knew I had to be open to Hillary again, get geared up and even question some of my assumptions. I gotta clear a few things up, for one I didn’t mistrust her because of her emails or Bhengazi. I’ve been calling both of those investigations a witch hunt. But within the swirl of messages of distrust towards Hillary, I may have gotten a little more critical about her than I realized. I spent all of those months rooting for Bernie, and part of the conversation was to defeat Hillary. And it takes a minute to shift gears.

So, as I began to watch the Democratic National Convention I was already convinced to vote for her–but I still had some lingering doubts, things that bugged, a discomfort. Maybe I did want to be sold on her after all, and so I watched. Night after night as the DNC made a strong case, I began to feel enthusiasm and even hope. I agree with Barak Obama, when he said she is the most qualified person ever to run for President. I’m not letting her off the hook on a few key issues, namely her foreign policy (don’t worry I caught her allegiance to Israel). She co-opted Bernie’s platform, and I will be expecting her to come through on repealing Citizen’s United, reform banking, improve the health care system, and make college affordable. It’s a tall order, especially considering she will have her hands full with foreign affairs. And finally, I will do what I can to remind people to vote down ballot so the Democrats can gain control of the Senate. Like she said, she can’t do this alone!

I felt the DNC put on a rousing, entertaining and highly effective convention. The positive tone, the focus on love and togetherness was just the right message we needed to hear. Because it’s clear the country is gripped with anxiety, we’re not divided, we’re just afraid. And if there is one thing I know, there is nothing like patience, love, and a good long hug to ease negative feelings. Stronger together. I buy that message.

After watching four evenings of the Democratic National Convention I’ve come away the following observations:

  1. The Democratic Party knows how to work the system to win.
  2. The media is completely out of touch with America, and they suck, and it’s their fault Trump won, and they spread biased misinformation.
  3. I will not allow this country to be defined by hate.
  4. There are some amazing people in our country who’ve sacrificed everything.
  5. There is actually common ground between Democrats and Republicans.
  6. Who is Elizabeth Banks?
  7. The Twitterverse is gonna have so much fun with nice guy Tom Kaine.
  8. African-Americans using their preacher/sermon style is a force for good that is rooted in our country! It’s powerful and inspirational.
  9. I was aware of the emotional manipulation and it kinda felt good.
  10. I loved the crowd filled with so many shades of white, yellow and brown faces!

And I finally buy Hillary as a candidate. She took on the challenge to appeal to us Bernie Democrats and not just expect our easy allegiance. I know, my friends who are a long time Hillary supporters are probably bothered she had to make a case at all. But I think it made her a better candidate. I thought she nailed her speech. And I mean the voice of God, Morgan Freeman himself, reminded us that she is a mother, a fighter, and she sits in the kitchen and talks her daughter about her day. In her speech, she owned her smarty-pants style. She admitted to being policy wonk and said the details matter. Yeah, own it! She acknowledged there is work to be done to level the playing field, the economy is rigged, that the banks are too big. I’m going to rise above cynicism here and point out that last year she wasn’t saying these things, and she did precisely because of the progressive Bernie movement. I felt vindicated sticking up for my sad, last stand of a vote in the California primary.

We still have 100 days left of the campaign and lot can happen, and there is usually an October surprise of some sort. In 2008, when Obama was running, the whole world economy was in a scary tailspin in the Fall. And I fear we will have to endure a lot more negative campaigning before November. But, I’ve been making plans on how I can help assure that Trump doesn’t make it into office. I couldn’t live with myself if he did win and I didn’t do everything I could to stop his madness. He could have the opportunity to shape the Supreme Court and that just can’t happen!

And that’s just it, like so many parents we have our eyes on the future. I got emotional when I watched Hillary stand before a cheering crowd, and I thought about my eight-year-old daughter, growing up in her tween and teen years, with a woman at the helm of this country. At the end of the next two terms, my dear, smart, forward-thinking girl will almost be able to vote. She has already promised we could go to the voting booth together when she is 18. Now that’s a promise I will hold her to for sure. Yeah, just like Hillary there are a lot of promises to be kept. I think some of them can happen.


Why my cat is voting for Hillary but I’m not.

FullSizeRenderRecently, my seven-daughter asked me why I wasn’t supporting Hillary Clinton. I explained it was a primary vote, and right now I choose Bernie Sanders because I like his message more than Hillary. My daughter kind of understood but then unequivocally told me she backs Hillary because she wants to see a woman as President. I told her that was a good reason, and I want to see that too. I also promised her if Hillary won the primary I’d vote for her, and we’d both go to the polling place together. She started making Hillary campaign posters and posted them around the house. She even made one for our cat and proclaimed feline allegiance to Hillary! Even though the cat had no choice in the matter, I didn’t worry about influencing my daughter’s (and kitty’s) vote because her reasoning was as sound as many other adult women. Plus, I got a kick out of the fact that she came to her own conclusions. That’s all I want for my girl, to use her mind, speak up and remain confident. Apparently, the poor cat is going to have to go along with her owner!

What I didn’t tell her is that I don’t find Hillary Clinton very inspiring, anymore. There was a time, way back in the 90’s, when I watched the First Lady of the United States fight tooth and nail for health care reform. I was an unemployed, dropout, living a textbook Generation X slacker lifestyle. It was a drab, low-energy, uninspiring time. But there she was a lone woman, at a table, sparring with senators ready to take her down. I related, I too felt the men in my life were taking me down. I tried to one up them, playing pool, smoking cigarettes, wearing combat boots and overalls. I didn’t like being told I couldn’t do something because I was a woman. If I was, I tried to be better than a man, even if it was a loser’s cause. And so Hillary became an inspiration, she was fighting for healthcare for all, and was emotional, transformational, and well-versed. She had answers for everything, and the men came off as hysterical and combative. All in all, I thought she rocked!

I still reflect upon this memory of Hillary and I know there is still a part of her that remembers this time. Obviously, she has skill, tact, and political prowess. She can think on her feet, with intelligence, steely composure and book smarts. But, Hillary doesn’t move me anymore, she doesn’t speak my language or inspire confidence. I do hesitate to write this because I’m aware that as a woman running for President of the United States she is getting a special dose of sexist treatment from the media, in stupid memes, and of course from her opponents. I don’t think some of the criticism lobbed against her time and again is totally legitimate, for example having to explain her husband’s illicit behaviors. But I do believe that she should be brought to task for some questionable activities in her long political history. It’s also not fair for her to call foul when she is criticized, especially since she and her surrogates play a nasty game of insidious political takedowns. She is no longer the newcomer, the wife of the President taking on a cause that was really a side project. Now she has created her own political legacy and she should be held to that record. I am not a fan of her corporate ties and her interventionist and harmful foreign policy that ally with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Yes, the cynical point of view is that all politicians are bought out by corporations, court lobbying groups and shake hands with despots and corrupt rulers abroad. Just because everyone does it, shouldn’t invalidate concern. I felt this way eight years ago and as time has passed and more evidence has been brought out, it’s evident she owes political favors that conflict with her ever-changing campaign message. And finally, I would have been inspired to support the first woman in the Oval Office if she had less baggage than Hillary. Despite the efforts of Hillary’s cronies to paint all criticism of her as misogynistic and sexist, I think it’s a fair assessment that she does have a pretty thorny background.


More importantly, I don’t believe her trickle down feminism will benefit women as much as she’d like us to believe. I’ve heard her say something like “we deserve to show our daughters that they can become anything they want even the President of the United States of America.” But there is so much more our daughters deserve to see! If girls want to be anything they want they deserve equal access to quality public education, beginning in early childhood through high school in particular. Girls deserve to have access to women’s health and progressive sexual education. Girls deserve justice when they are raped, molested and assaulted and not discredited, blamed for being too sexy, or drunk. Girls deserve to date boys that are also educated about consent and respect for their bodies. Girls deserve to be called on in class. Girls deserve to be bossy, smart, intelligent without impacting their confidence. Girls deserve to live in a country that is safe from guns, terrorism, and war. And while girls deserve to see more women in leadership, I also believe that girls deserve to see women in a variety of roles. We need to honor the hard work of the invisible and not just worship the visible and elite achievements of women in office, or movies, or music, or social media.

And I know, Hillary thinks she deserves to be President and I can see why, but for me this is not reason enough. There are a lot of women that deserve more than they have right now, and they don’t have the power or voice to ever be heard. Hillary often says, “I will fight for your support, I will do what it takes.” But she supports the continuation of economic policies that make it difficult for working families to get ahead. I know Hillary is endorsed by Planned Parenthood, but here again, I don’t feel that gets to the root of the issues that face all women. We know that economic inequality impact women’s day to day lives more than ever. The change that needs to take place starts here and I believe that reforming our economic policies will do more improve women’s health, education, and careers. Focusing on Planned Parenthood and abortion rights is only looking at a symptom but not addressing the root causes, it’s an aid, not a solution.

IMG_0884I wish I could say all of this to my daughter and maybe I will just rant to the kitty one afternoon! I know one day my intelligent child will make her own connections. After all, the arc of history changes perspective doesn’t it? Perhaps the feminist inspiration that I seek, where women in leadership display integrity, vulnerability, softness, and inclusion will become the norm for my daughter’s generation. Because right now, what is missing for me, is there isn’t enough respect for the true power of womanhood. I want to see women celebrate feminity, not as a reaction to stereotypes created by men, but forging our own identities. We are mothers, sisters, daughters, and we give life, nurture change, nudge our husbands, brothers, sons and fathers to do more. Luckily, I do see more of this message on the horizon. And while we may see a woman break the glass ceiling in DC, the real change is happening in our homes, communities and workplaces. A female President that still plays by the old rules and propels foreign and domestic policies that don’t protect our interests as a nation is just a symbolic gesture. But don’t tell my cat, she still thinks its cool to see a lady as President.

Weekly Miscellany: Women and the countless lies we’re told and some we tell.


This week I happened upon a trail of lies that are told to women and a story about lies told by a woman. Coming upon this theme wasn’t deliberate, but the connections were difficult to ignore. Women have been lied to for the ages, our identities constructed, our lot in life pre-determined by fathers and husbands and up until recent decades we’ve had little choice in forging our own paths. But as we’ve started to create our own identities and speak out, the campaign to keep us quiet and in our place has become more devious over time. Facts and figures are skewed to tap into our natural ability to feel guilt. We are still easily shamed by society and even the word feminist has been diminished by a campaign of subversive ridicule that includes Hollywood starlets denying allegiance.

In the past few weeks, I definitely needed a little feminist fire to get me through yet another debate about the validity of women’s health, abortion and our sexual freedom—the real core of the matter. I decided to go to the source and read through Margaret Sanger’s 1914 newspaper, The Woman Rebel—still a really cool name!  But there is nothing like an energetic rant by my long-time favorite firebrand, Emma Goldman. It amazes me that feminists from over 100 years ago were so brazen and still so modern, proclaiming their radical ideas against adversity. These early feminists were shouting out ideas that are still taboo in many places in this world—now that is revolutionary!

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Love and Marriage

by Emma Goldman, excerpt from The Woman Rebel, Vol. 1, No. 1, March 1914.

The defenders of authority dread the advent of a free motherhood lest it rob them of their prey. Who would fight wars? Who would create wealth? Who would make the policeman, the jailer, if women were to refuse the indiscriminate breeding of children? The race, the race! shouts the king, the president, the capitalist, the priest. The race must be preserved, though women be degraded to a mere machine, –and the marriage institution is our only safety valve against the pernicious sex-awakening of women. But in vain these frantic efforts to maintain a state of bondage. In vain, too, the edicts of the Church, the mad attacks of rulers, in vain even the arm of the law. Women no longer want to be a party to the production of a race of sickly, feeble, decrepit, wretched human beings, who would have neither the strength nor moral courage to throw off the yoke of poverty and slavery. Instead she desires fewer and better children, begotten and reared in love and through free choice, not by compulsion as marriage imposes. Our pseudo-moralists have yet to learn the deep sense of responsibility toward the child, that love in freedom has awakened in the breast of women. Rather she forgo forever the glory of motherhood that bring forth life in an atmosphere that breathes only destruction and death. And if she does become a mother, it is to give to the child the deepest and best her being can yield. To grow with the child is her motto; she knows but in that manner alone can she help build true manhood and womanhood.

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The next article really had me upset, because I’ve watched so many women struggle to have babies, some are unable and others worry about the looming ticking clock. Yet it turns out that the facts have been obscured, only to project the notion that it’s best for women to settled down early and pursue family over career. Those women who choose to wait, do it with a mix of bravery and trepidation, because they’ve been told that statistics for childrearing are not on their side! But I implore all women to read this article all the way through, regardless of if you’re a mother, mother-to-be, or not, because it will show you how the narrative of a woman’s body has been continually hijacked by lies.

The following excerpts are from “How long can you wait to have a baby?” from The Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2013.

The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations.

In other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment. Most people assume these numbers are based on large, well-conducted studies of modern women, but they are not. When I mention this to friends and associates, by far the most common reaction is: “No … No way. Really?

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A few days later, I was clicking around for a good movie and I came upon “Julia” about two friends beautifully portrayed by Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. I was teary almost all the way through because I couldn’t get past the story of the long lost friendship. The cinematography and the backdrop of France and Germany on the eve of WW2 was sumptuous, a little stark and foreboding. When it ended, I was so struck and I stayed up late researching everything I could about the movie. “Julia” was highly acclaimed, receiving 11 Academy Award nominations and a BAFTA award for best film. But the most interesting thing I learned is that the riveting and emotional plot of two friends separated by tragic circumstances during WW2 was based on a pack of lies, a story that was co-opted by the very controversial writer Lillian Hellman. Even when this film was released in 1977, it was presented as “based on a true story” which means not the whole truth but partly. But, really the whole center plot of the two friends was completely fabricated. I read this on Wikipedia, but also cross-referenced this controversy because I’m so fascinated by this trail of lies.

The Oscar-winning film Julia was based on one chapter of Pentimento. Following the film’s release in 1977, New York psychiatrist Muriel Gardiner claimed she was the basis for the title character. The story presents “Julia” as a close friend of Hellman’s living in pre-Nazi Austria. Hellman helps her friend to smuggle money for anti-Nazi activity from Russia. In fact Hellman had never met Gardiner. Hellman denied that the character was based on Gardiner, but never identified a real-life alternative.[2] Hellman and Gardiner had the same lawyer (Wolf Schwabacher) who had been privy to Gardiner’s memoirs. The events depicted in the film conformed to those described in Gardiner’s memoirs.[2]

I’m not the only one that is fascinated by Hellman, in 2002 Nora Ephron staged a musical about this controversy of Hellman and Gardiner called “Imaginary Friends.” I feel like I’m about a decade late in this interest in Hellman, I would have loved to have seen Ephron’s musical.

But the fascination into Hellman’s contradictory and fascinating life hasn’t ceased, just a few year’s ago Fresh Air book critic, Maureen Corrigan reviewed a 2012 biography of Hellman entitled, “A Difficult Woman”.

“Difficult” is probably the most tactful word one could use in characterizing Lillian Hellman. If ever there were an author safer to meet through her art rather than in real life, she was the one. Born in New Orleans into a Jewish family, Hellman came of age in the Roaring ’20s, liberated by flappers and Freud. Hellman drank like a fish, swore like a sailor and slept around like, well, like most of the men in her literary circle, chief among them Dashiell Hammett, with whom she had an open relationship spanning three decades. She was, recalled one observer, a “tough broad … the kind of girl who can take the tops off bottles with her teeth.”

Although she concedes that “Lillian Hellman is a juicy character [whose] life is filled with sex and scandal,” Kessler-Harris mostly trains her gaze on the larger arguments over Stalinism and Hellman’s art and her truth-telling or lack thereof. Kessler-Harris wants to delve into how Hellman was formed by her time and, perhaps, misremembered by our own.

…but here’s one good reason why young women especially should care about the lessons offered by Hellman’s life: Hellman, Kessler-Harris emphasizes, continued to be a bold creature of the 1920s long after Betty Boop became domesticated into June Cleaver.

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Goodbye September!

A month ago, I made a commitment to activate this blog again. What has occurred since, has been a bit consuming but I know I’m doing the right thing because I’m LISTENING! Hello!? Anita, what do you want to do with your life? WRITE! Well get to it lady!

I was just talking to a friend today who asked my about my daughter and I told her she wants to be a guitar player when she grew and I kind of laughed. My friend said “Well I knew I wanted to be a writer around her age.” She’s reminded me that I was around seven, the same as my daughter when I had the idea that I’ve wanted to write books. I’ve never been confused about this. I’ve never had to read a book or take a test to find my passion. I’ve always been driven by words, reading, books, literature, writing, journalism and ideas. And I’ve felt this very strongly from a young age. So what in the world happened? Everyone tells you, find your passion, right? Then just do it.

What happened is a series of sad, but familiar events. My family, immigrants from India weren’t very supportive of creative pursuits.  I recall arguing with my dad, maybe I was 11 or 12 and he said, “Yes become a lawyer or doctor first and THEN you can write a book.” It’s only now as an adult that I know why he was saying this, he only cared for my future, having stability was all my family ever wanted for their kids. A writer’s life was no life for a woman. This was also made clear early on and I have to say, it hurt to hear those words from people I loved.

I struggled through school, had problems paying attention to certain subjects. I always managed to be a solid B student because I got A’s in English, writing, humanities and C’s in math and science, but this grade was not exciting enough for an Indian family. Over time the sadness morphed into a deep depression. By the time I was a freshman in college, pursuing Journalism, a sort of compromise for an English degree because I convinced my dad (and myself) it could lead to a career, I was clinically depressed. Instead of going to class, I would drive to school each day and sleep in the parking lot under the warm sun.

Now, everybody has regrets in life. I totally get it. But I keep repeating the same mistakes. I still haven’t fully figured out how to get passed the doubts, fears and barriers that have built in my mind. It’s not enough to have a passion. You have to be fearless, you have to stand up to others and just do what you want. I’ve never really been able to do this and as each year passes, it becomes hard. I’ve decided to not make it hard anymore. I need to get out of my own way as they say! This seems like a ridiculous time in my life to keep trying, but what else can I do?

It’s taken me years but I know that the best “therapy” is to keep listening. There is nothing worse than to live a life that is marred by regrets. It’s taken me 30 years to figure out the true source of my depression is that I’m simply not doing enough of what makes me happy. I’m not listening to my true self and have tried to run from it, hide it away, and ignore it. But when you’ve had a passion that has been squelched your whole life, you start to become sick. Really, it’s a form of cancer, it just remains. I’m not sure if I can really heal or get over the years that I’ve wasted, but I have to try to keep going on and write. I have so much to write about, this is a gift! A gift of creativity that not everybody has tapped into or feels as strongly. So I must honor it and be okay with fear, understand the barriers and just be a little crazy.

That’s why early this month, I finally decided to put my foot to the metal. I made some clear choices:

I want readers.

I need to put my writing out there.

I’m going to worry less about others.

I’ve been experimenting with a few styles and topics. I have learned what is read and not. But I think the best advice I’ve seen on writing is to not give a care about clicks and views and readers. Just write. But I do have to share this chart, check out September! So thanks to all of you for your support, I plan to keep this space going as well as I can.

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The Weekly Miscellany: On Omission, Refugees and The History of Isis


Reading about writing is on of my favorite pastimes. This week John McPhee, long-time New Yorker contributor began his regular column “Writing Life” recalling his experience as a writer for the Miscellany column in Time. Of course, as you can imagine I was thrilled to see the connection. The rest of his piece is advice on what to omit when writing, so it was very useful.

On another note, I’ve been reading all I can about the refugee migration, with an eye for learning about the root causes and the future for this massive humanitarian crisis. But I’m also compelled due to my own family legacy of human migration during the Indian Partition because we still live with an unspoken history. I think of how that event impacted us now and when I see the faces of children walking along railroad tracks with their small possessions in tow, I know the pain of displacement will continue for a new generation. All I can hope is that their futures are filled with some amount of opportunity.

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I guess I wasn’t the only publication to think of a miscellany column

Omission, choosing what to leave out from The New Yorker, Sept. 14, 2015

At Time in the nineteen-fifties, the entry-level job for writers was a column called Miscellany. Filled with one-sentence oddities culled from newspapers and the wire services, Miscellany ran down its third of a page like a ladder, each wee story with its own title—traditionally, and almost invariably, a pun.

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A controversial point of view about how nations should deal with refugee crisis from philosopher Slavoj Zizek 

The Non-Existence of Norway from The London Review of Books, Sept. 9, 2015

If we really want to stem the flow of refugees, then, it is crucial to recognise that most of them come from ‘failed states’, where public authority is more or less inoperative: Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, DRC and so on. This disintegration of state power is not a local phenomenon but a result of international politics and the global economic system, in some cases – like Libya and Iraq – a direct outcome of Western intervention. (One should also note that the ‘failed states’ of the Middle East were condemned to failure by the boundaries drawn up during the First World War by Britain and France.)

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Strangers in strange lands. The world’s institutional approach to refugees was born in Europe seven decades ago. The continent must relearn its lessons, from The Economist, Sept. 12, 2015.

Notice the immensity Partition of India in such a short period of time.


For months refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea have been retracing the routes used by European refugees in the 1940s. They pick their way through razor-wire fencing on Serbia’s northern border, where ethnic Hungarians once fled Titoist partisans. They are smuggled in trucks across Austria, just as Jews headed from Poland to Palestine once were. But this time the flow is moving in the opposite direction: towards Germany.

More on history of past refugees:

But every wave of immigration has been accompanied by fears. In 1709 the War of the Spanish Succession sent thousands of refugees from lower Saxony down the Rhine and across the North Sea to London. Believing that they would then be offered free passage to America, the so-called “Poor Palatines” instead ended up in refugee camps. Daniel Defoe and other Whigs argued that they were Protestant refugees from Roman Catholic oppression and should be settled in England—an argument that suffered a blow when, on closer inspection, half the Palatines turned out to be Catholic themselves. A Tory faction meanwhile argued that they were economic migrants, low-skilled undesirables who would prove an endless burden on the Crown. Ultimately, investors were found to put some of them on boats to America, where they founded Germantown, New York.

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The Truth about the Caliphate, from Prospect, Aug. 20, 2015.

What today’s commentators in London and Washington often forget—and militants repeatedly remind themselves and anyone else prepared to listen—is that the supremacy of the west is a relatively new phenomenon in historical terms. Across much of the world, for two thirds of the last 1,300 years, the power, the glory and the wealth was, broadly speaking, Islamic. The story of the caliphate, both as historical reality and as imagined by extremists like those of the Islamic State, can only be understood within the context of this overarching narrative, as the means by which the militants seek to return the world’s Muslim community to what it sees as its rightful status: a global superpower.

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I didn’t want to read My Struggle, but now I’m hooked!

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Before I became a ridiculously over-zealous fan, I had no interest reading “My Struggle”, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s 3600-page fictional memoir. Who in the world would ever read something so long, much less write such a voluminous text? Brevity is key in this world of 140 character Twitter posts and pithy advertising copy. We want short, to the point, condensed nuggets. Not some self-obsessed writer droning on for pages. I’d heard of Knausgaard following my nerdy literary world of journals and book reviews, but I remained a hold-out, passing up the release of three out of six volumes (yeah SIX VOLUMES). I wasn’t that intrigued, and it always seems that literati has a penchant for male authors who write long diatribes, so I brushed him off as the newest David Foster Wallace. I favored reading contemporary women fiction writers because I had spent my youth devouring all the male literary giants, and so Knausgaard was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to read.

Then I happened upon “My Saga” a sort of travel piece he wrote for the New York Times Magazine about his adventure through North America. I noticed his pictures right away, and he is handsome, in that edgy chain-smoking way that should bore me by now. But what about his writing? I was hooked after I read a few paragraphs. His style is soft and flowing the opposite of Hemmingway but not quite with the frenetic energy of a Hunter J. Thompson rant. He can describe a mundane event page after page, with details and facts that you may or may not need to know. Then he makes a soft turn, very subtly infusing a statement that causes a slow pause, and you begin to understand the purpose of the details and want to know every moment. His scenes of everyday life, don’t necessary prove a point, but sometimes they do support his digressions, it just takes hundreds of pages for the reader to make the connection. In My Saga, I was pulled into a story about his lost backpack, and he writes,

There is a saying in Norway that he who loses money shall receive money, and I think that’s true, because when you lose things, it means you’re not on your guard, you’re not trying to control everything, you’re not being so anal all the time — and if you aren’t, but allow yourself to be open to the world instead, then anything at all might come to you.

I knew what he meant. I could relate, in a way when I was messier, I also had a different energy and felt more alive. Sure stuff got lost, but I wasn’t living in the grips of control. I kept on reading and found his whole botched adventure, insightful in a strange stoic, repressed yet observant, wryly humorous manner. But I didn’t think I’d read his books, it seemed too much of an investment. His stories are about events that are familiar, driving around America, or clogging up a toilet, but then he digresses with insights about literature and philosophy and then weaves his way back to the start.

But then in My Saga, Knausgaard relates a story to the photographer that he is traveling with, about meeting with a famous writer (he is unnamed in this piece, but later Jeffrey Eugenides outs himself). Knausgaard realizes that his silence may have offended the author, and the story picks up here;

Then I realized he must have taken my silence personally. He must have thought I didn’t find it worth my time talking to him.

I wrote back and asked him if he’d seen any Bergman movies? No one talks there either. And Finland was even worse; there, no one ever said anything to each other. I wrote that I’m always like this, that I never say anything to people I don’t know, even when they’re having dinner at our house. He never answered.

“Who was it?” Peter asked.

I told him.

“It’s deeply un-American, you know, not to make small talk. It’s a very important part of the culture of this country. You remind me a little of my dad. He didn’t know how to make small talk, either, when he first got here. Or maybe he didn’t want to. But he does now.”

Now I had no doubt that I must read “My Struggle”. He was pinpointing something that is relatable to me, the trials of an introvert, but he brings in observations that are distinctly not an American point of view. I have noticed this type of interaction and have wanted to write about this very theme. But he encapsulated this struggle, the quiet person versus the incessant American need for small talk, with an exchange and a short interlude to another story. I had to step into his Norwegian world, all 3600 pages!

Because of translation and publishing dates volumes come out in sporadic succession, but I went through the first three books rapidly. But the struggle of being introverted were one of many for the author, who is the main character of his fictionalized version of his memories. And what is a fictional memoir? If it’s confusing, you’re not alone. However, as you read you’re constantly asking yourself, is this his memory, or is it a fictionalized account? Of course, in true meta-fictional style, he as the narrator explores the very notion of memory and false memory. So you get the idea that he is playing with the past at the very same time he writes about his present life.

Aside from his life in Norway and Sweden, with scenes and discussions about the cultures and attitudes in these two countries, he also writes about his successes and struggles to be an author. He has all sorts of bourgeois baggage, that in itself is not that compelling. He has episodes of drinking problems, leaves his first wife, falls in love and marries again, has kids, his abusive father dies, he has a brother and relates long conversations with a close friend. But his intensity about his work, the malleability of identity, and his digressions that somehow touch upon these concepts, make his work compelling.

When I read Knausgaard I see a story every day, all around me, conversations on the bus, the interaction with my mom, my child, and husband. I notice small details, sounds, landscapes, and relationships, and I realize there is so much there, all around me. I kept thinking about all the scenes I wanted to write, connecting ideas or random thoughts. His struggle is inspiring, more so than overly positive affirmations that have become all the rage. When I posted the quote below on Facebook, a friend said, “Ouch.” But I get it, I understand. Right now, I’m more than disgusted with myself that I haven’t written enough and have so much more to write. So I needed this Knausgaardian kick in the seat because I can only be a writer if I write. Simple but harder than you think.

“If I have learned one thing over these years that seems to me immensely important, particularly in an era such as ours, overflowing with such mediocrity it is the following:

Don’t believe your are anybody.

Do not fucking believe your are somebody.

Because you are not. You’re just a smug, mediocre little shit.

Do not believe that you’re anything special. Do not believe that you’re worth anything, because you aren’t. You’re just a little shit.

So keep your head down and work, you little shit. Then, at least, you’ll get something out of it. Shut your mouth, keep your head down, work, and know that you’re not worth a shit.”

The Modernist’s Weekly Miscellany


I share a lot of articles, podcasts, books, TV, and movies on social media. I share because I crave discussion. I share because I love to read, watch and listen. I share when something inspires, enlightens and comforts my mind. It is with this intention that I plan to share a weekly collection of the very best that tickled my fancy—it may have made me laugh, gasp or cry—but most of all I hope you enjoy.

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Excerpt from The Lady’s Weekly Miscellany, New York, Saturday, April 30, 1808

Lucretia Greenville.
The following extraordinary account an attempt made by Lucretia Greenville, to assassinate the tyrant Oliver Cromwell, copied from a European Magazine, is a remarkable trait of female revenge. As it is probable very few of our readers are acquainted with the particulars, we believe it will be generally acceptable.

This exalted female was betrothed to Francis, Duke of Buckingham, at the time that he fell in a battle by the hand of Cromwell himself, and upon receiving intelligence of the melancholy event, she swore to avenge his death on the murderer. During the three succeeding years, she exercised herself with pistols in firing at a portrait of Cromwell, which she had selected as a mark, that she might not be awed by the sight of the original; and as, soon as she found herself perfect, she sought and opportunity of gratifying her revenge. But Cromwell seldom appeared in public; and when he did, it was with such precaution, that few could approach his person.

An occasion at length occurred; the city of London resolved to give a magnificent banquet in honor of the Protector, who, either from vanity or with a political view, determined to make his entrance into London in all the splendor of royalty. Upon this being made public, the curiosity of all ranks was excited; and Lucretia Greenville resolved not to neglect so favourable an opportunity. Fortune herself seemed to second her purpose; for it so happened, that the procession was appointed to proceed through the very street in which she resided, and a balcony before the first story of her house yielded her full scope for putting her long premeditated design in effect.

On the appointed day she seated herself, with several other female companions, in the balcony, having on this occasion, for the first time since her lover’s death, cast off her mourning, and attired herself in the most sumptuous apparel. It was not without the greatest exertions that she concealed the violent emotion under which she laboured: and when the increasing pressure of the crowd indicated the approach of Cromwell, it became so strong, that she nearly fainted, but, however, recovered just as the usurper arrived within a few paces of the balcony.

Hastily drawing the pistol from under her garment, she fearlessly too her aim, and fired; but a sudden start, which the lady who sat next to her made, on beholding the weapon, gave it a different direction than was intended, and the ball striking the horse rode by Henry, the Protector’s son, it was laid dead at his feet. The circumstance immediately arrested the progress of the cavalcade and Cromwell, at the same time, that he cast a fierce look at the balcony, beheld a singular spectacle; about twenty females were on their knees imploring his mercy with uplifted hands, whilst one only stood undaunted in the midst of them, and looking down contemptuously on the usurper, “Tyrant! it was I who dealt the blow; nor should I be satisfied with killing a horse instead of a tiger, were I not convinced that, ere another twelvemonth has elapsed, Heaven will grant another that success which it was denied to me!”

The multitude, actuated more by fear than love, was preparing to level the house to ground; when Cromwell cried aloud with the most artful sang froid, “Desist, my friends! alas! poor woman, she knows not what she does,” and pursued his course; but afterwards caused Lucretia to be arrested, and confined in a mad-house.

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The Other France, New Yorker, August 31, 2015.

“To many Parisians, the 93 signifies decayed housing projects, crime, unemployment, and Muslims. France has all kinds of suburbs, but the word for them, banlieues, has become pejorative, meaning slums dominated by immigrants. Inside the banlieues are the cités: colossal concrete housing projects built during the postwar decades, in the Brutalist style of Le Corbusier. Conceived as utopias for workers, they have become concentrations of poverty and social isolation. The cités and their occupants are the subject of anxious and angry discussion in France”.

line breakNeuroTribes’ Examines the History–and Myths–of the Autism Spectrum, Fresh Air, September 2, 2015.

“So I think that society really needs to do a bit of soul-searching about how we’re dealing with autism. And we need to get over our obsession with causes because we’ve been researching the cause of schizophrenia for decades, and we still don’t know what causes schizophrenia exactly.”

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The San Francisco Hipster is Dead Y’All, 48Hills, September 1, 2015

“The days of being able to be willfully obscure, outrageous, awkward, artistic, pretentious, and poor are long behind us. I never thought I’d miss greasy asymmetrical bowl-cuts and fake American Apparel oversized glasses as much as this, but I kind of do.”

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Down by the Riverside, Sister Rosetta Tharpe 

I feel so bad in the morning
I feel so bad in the middle of the day
I feel so bad in the evening
that’s why i’m going to the river, to wash my sins away

I’m gonna lay down my heavy load, down by the riverside,
Down by the riverside, down by the riverside
I’m gonna lay down my heavy load, down by the riverside,
I’m gonna study war no more

I ain’t a gonna study war no more,
I ain’t a gonna study war no more

I ain’t a gonna study war no more,
I ain’t a gonna study war no more

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Ferrante Fever versus the Forces of Franzen

FerranteFeverI felt so pleased with myself today. For months, I’ve waited for Elena Ferrante’s next book, “The Story of the Lost Child.”  Finally, the crescendo of the Neapolitan novels was soon to be in my hands. I walked on a rubble path, through Golden Gate Park with a friend and I told her of Elena’s hidden identity and how some say the books are written by a man. I tell her I found it implausible and if someday proven true my belief in anything would be crushed forever. She had heard about “Ferrante Fever” from Jezebel and just started reading book one. I immediately rebuked her for liking Jezebel, I called it click bait and a snarky form of feminism I found insulting. She liked the blog because they posted issues she cared about and I told her that she didn’t need Jezebel. She kind of shrugged and I realized I could have tempered my proclivity for being overbearing.

I thought of how lucky we were to work near Green Apple Books on the Park, one of the last remaining bookstores in San Francisco. I knew exactly where “The Story of a New Name” would be placed. It was as if I took a standing leap, like an out of shape ballerina, straight to the wooden shelf. In a few short seconds, I grabbed one of remaining two copies and placed it on the counter. An irrepressible squeal, a few claps of my hand came next as I fished around for money, eagerly awaiting to complete my purchase.

“I bet you didn’t expect people to come in squealing over a book,” I say in a pleased tone.

“You aren’t the first one today!”

“Oh that’s good, I can’t wait to start reading. I’ve been waiting for months!!!”

“Ferrante is getting more excitement than Franzen today,” says the youngish bookseller boy.

“Well, of course, I’m not choosing Franzen over Ferrante!!”

My friend obviously hadn’t been too offended by my dislike of Jezebel.  She stuck around the bookstore to watch as if I was picking up a huge cash prize from the lottery. She happened to bump into a friend who just happened to be there to pick up her Ferrante pre-order.

“I overheard you’re reading book four!”

“Yes, I’m so excited. You know what I’ll be doing tonight!”

“Yeah, I tried to come in yesterday to pick up my book early and they wouldn’t release it until today!”

“What?! I’m sure the book was here!”

Just then the bookseller showed up with a box that said Ferrante Fever Party Box. He handed us pins that said “Ferrante Fever” in a strangely inappropriate but eye-catching hot pink neon style. Then he reached in the party box and handed us Europa tote bags. It really couldn’t get any better I thought to myself. I may have squealed again.

“I heard you mention Franzen,” says the woman who was picking up her order.

“Yeah, there is no way I’d read his version of feminism over Ferrante,” I say without holding back again.

“Right?! I don’t like his style.”

The bookseller pipes in, “Yeah he’s not really that great.”

I walked back through Golden Gate park and thought of how willing I was to make so many opinionated proclamations. Earlier in the day I had posted an article about the death of the San Francisco Hipster and for some reason I had called out my closest friend. I didn’t feel like holding back the truth. I did cringe every time she offhandedly called me a hipster or referred to my hipster family. But what kind of friend had I been to tag her name on such a post, laughing about the death of the hipster? Because, yes the hipster is dead and really all counterculture identity is pretty much dead, but did I have to be such a snot? I must have found it necessary to share this opinion with so many people. My friend may have meant little harm calling me a hipster, or maybe it a compliment, or a simple observation. Here I wasn’t so sure. Perhaps it was out of some weird combination narcissism and smugness that prompted me to let everyone know that I dislike labels. Yeah don’t call me anything, I want to say. I’m undefinable.

And what of this comparison between Ferrante and Franzen? I had found it so validating to have a conversation about disliking Franzen. Obviously, in the literary world it’s de reiguer to put one’s nose up at highly promoted fiction writers. Yet I always end up reading his books, while all the while complaining of his misanthropy. I remember that I had ordered a signed version of “Freedom” before the release date and read it with rapt attention commanded by such a literary force. I had blabbed to all my friends about “Freedom” not unlike the incessant stream of platitudes I lay upon Ferrante’s work. But what had struck me after reading “Freedom” was that I was left feeling hollow. At first his characters had pulled me in and I wanted to follow their transgressions, hoping for redemption or insight. But “Freedom” doesn’t take you there, one is still trapped within the confines of unlikable characters and murky ethics.

When I finished “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay” book three of Ferrante’s series I gasped out loud and raised my fist to an empty space. I couldn’t believe the end, even if I had seen it coming, perhaps a thematic device. For months after, I kept thinking of Lenu and Lila and they brought up insights into what it means to live as a woman in the shadow of men, those in our family and those we love. I thought of all the times that I had been a selfish friend, especially to those who I consider close, even to this day. Lenu and Lila’s lives together created a portrait of friendship and feminism that unfolded with so much energy, connection to others (including the reader), to the past and to the present, it became hard not to layer in our own memories. The many flaws of the characters left small wounds, not unlike the how I feel when I see a child left out on the playground. Oh, I how I wanted to go and offer my hand, to take away the isolation and abandonment. Ferrante creates dynamic characters who inhabit a small world, but within a span of decades of complicated friendship we are taken through so many depths of emotions we feel as if we had lived along with them.

As I write this I almost feel a strange nervous trepidation to start the last and final novel because I know it will be the end of the story of Lenu and Lila. But this is the pleasure that I long for, the joy of reading with transfixed attention to the end, and even after I finish I will still make connections and think of their story.

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