Archive for August, 2012

The Lovett Library Memorial GardenMy friend Maria Fama and I were recently talking about libraries.  Both us are writers and long-time friends.  Of all of our accomplishments through the years, we are both really proud of the fact that our books can be found in The Free Libary of Philadelphia.  There are presently five copies of my book Tea Leaves, a memoir of mothers and daughters (Bella Books, 2012) in the library system.  One copy is at the Lovett Memorial Branch, and others are at Central, the Walnut Street and Indendence branches and the Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Branch (in Germantown).  One of these copies of Tea Leaves is being transferred between libraries and the last time that I checked a copy was on reserve.

author Janet Mason standing outside Lovett Library

When Maria and I talked about the fact that libraries are so important to us because when we were working class kids on our way to growing up and becoming writers, the library was a sanctuary for us.  I don’t have to tell you about the budget cuts affecting libraries in Philadelphia (and elsewhere) and the signs about limited hours on the doorways.

Without libraries, there would be fewer readers and most definitely fewer writers.  There would be more violence in the streets and less learning.  Can we afford that?

Janet Mason talking about Tea Leaves at Lovett Library

Recently, I did a reading from Tea Leaves at the Lovett Memorial Branch (my local library) of the Free Library of Philadelphia.  I invite you to see the pictures and also to read the article that was written in NewsWorks about the reading.  We had a lively discussion after the reading about our mothers, grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, and the people’s history of Philadelphia. I credited the city as being a partner in my writing process.  The library is  a partner, too.  It has been there with me through all the years.  Let’s make sure it stays with us.

The Lovett Library sign

Madeleine and Barbara at the Lovett Library in Philadelphia

from NewsWorks article by Jane Shea

How does one process a mother’s mortality and honor her life, her history and her influence? Author, Janet Mason, found the answer in her writing. The resulting book, Tea Leaves: A memoir of mothers and daughters, documents that journey. Mason shared readings from Tea Leaves in her Mt. Airy neighborhood twice this past week at the Lovett Memorial Library last Tuesday and at the Big Blue Marble bookstore on Friday.

Mason’s mother, Jane, was diagnosed with late stage cancer in 1993, after being initially misdiagnosed. Mason did what comes naturally to an only child – she assumed the role of primary caregiver. She had six months left with her mother. In that time, Mason not only handled the “immense responsibility” of caring for a terminally ill parent, but also recorded those experiences, family stories, memories, history and learned how they shaped three generations of women.

Mason who describes her mother as a atheist, feminist, hopeless realist and an amazing storyteller always encouraged Mason’s writing. “I got a lot of validation,” she said. Through her published poetry and literary commentary on This Way Out radio program, Mason has pursued her creative dreams in a way her foremothers never could, making good on the advice of an early therapist who once told her, “You’re the only one who can write the story about your life.”
read the entire article

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(from The Huffington Post)

As a post-50 lesbian feminist who came out more than a quarter-century ago, my heart is with the kiss-in protestors outside of the Chick-fil-A “restaurants.” Love is a good response to hate. The kiss-in demonstrations are reminiscent of the organized lesbian hand-holding showings at shopping malls in the early ’80s. However, just as I avoided shopping malls like the plague as a young lesbian, a large part of me is tempted to ignore the Chick-fil-A debacle. I wonder what would have happened if everyone else, including the media, did the same.

This is America, and the fact that this issue has spiraled into a consumer feeding frenzy, with those for and against gay marriage lining up to make a buck, is not surprising. The results are predictable. Are people who support gay marriage more likely to spend their money at Chick-fil-A or Starbucks? People may be thinking that they are supporting a political cause (in the case of establishments supporting same-sex marriage) or “supporting free speech” in the guise of endorsing bigotry, but really they are being suckered into another advertising racket.

Given what I have read about fast-food chicken lately, it may taste like hate now, but chances are that it never tasted like real food, either. I have to admit that I’ve never eaten at a Chick-fil-A. While I never thought about that fact before, I now am proud of it. Go figure. When my mother was terminally ill and I was taking care of her (I chronicled the experience in Tea Leaves: A Memoir of Mothers and Daughters, from Bella Books), I was macrobiotic, the closest to vegetarian that I have ever been. Having been raised by a card-carrying atheist mother and an agnostic father, I also found myself reading about Buddhism. The Buddhist philosophy of compassion was helpful to me at the time. Still, neither the macrobiotics nor the Buddhism stuck with me. I have been, in the vernacular of the macrobiotic people I knew, “eating wide.” And my interest in Buddhism has waned, although I do find that I am more nonviolent than ever before.

Nonviolence is a cultivated trait. More than a decade ago, a disturbed and homophobic young man on the block where my partner and I live hurled several rocks through our bedroom window. My first inclination was to get some rocks of my own and throw them back. Then I calmed down and called the police. I reported the incident as a hate crime, even though this was before Pennsylvania legislature expanded the existing hate crime law to protect gays and lesbians in 2002. I was unaware that I was not legally protected. The Philadelphia cop who handled our case was unusually sympathetic. He offered to go across the street and talk to the young man, but he cautioned us that “the problem with people like that is that when you confront them, they get worse.” It turned out that he was right.

read the rest in The Huffington Post!

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