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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on the lifting up of Pride. The service was about magic and being the hero of your own story.

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

Happy Pride

This is what I used to say every June to our legion of friends, old and new, when we were in every New York Pride Parade for years.

The New York Pride events were, of course, cancelled this year. Pride usually draws a large amount of people from all over the country.  It’s estimated that two million people have attended New York Pride each year in recent years.

My partner, Barbara, and I weren’t planning on going this year and we haven’t been to Pride for years. Although we would like to go again and see our friends in Brooklyn who we stay with. Even so, even with all the tragedy going on around us, I was momentarily taken aback a few months ago when I heard Pride was cancelled.

Pride is that much a part of me.

The LGBTQ community has earned Pride.  But I do not think that having pride should be limited to one group of people.  Everybody should be proud of themselves.  As the late, great, writer Toni Morrison said, “You are your own best thing.”

She was speaking, of course, about true pride, or self-love or empowerment – whatever you want to call it. This kind of feeling good about yourself, does not rest upon feeling negatively about another group.  That’s not pride. Unfortunately, we’ve been seeing far too much of it and it’s heartbreaking – to say the least.  One could argue that hatred of others begins with self-hate.

Pride was born in the protests of the Stonewall Inn, which became a week-long riot in 1969. The people with the least to lose – those who couldn’t pass in straight society, the butch lesbians and the drag queens – exploded one night during yet another police raid on a gay bar. Raids were customary then. Gay people were routinely carted off to jail, their names were published in the newspapers. They lost their jobs – and often their families.

Ten years later, there was another riot, after the assassination of Harvey Milk, a small business owner and politician in San Francisco. The man who assassinated him, a former firefighter, got off lightly on a charge of manslaughter and used what has since come to be called “the twinkie defense” – meaning that his legal team used the excuse that he ate too much junk food which led to his criminal behavior. After this sentencing, a peaceful candlelight vigil turned into a riot outside San Francisco’s city hall which involved setting buildings and police cars on fire.

 

lesbian statue of libertyA few years after Harvey Milk was assassinated, I attended the premier screening of the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk (the first movie) at the Roxy on Sansom Street. I was young then, in my early twenties, and recently out as a lesbian. I still remember sitting in the dark theater and listening to the crying of those around me – mostly gay men.

Both riots – and there were others too – were before my time, but they are part of my history.

My partner and myself have lived in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia for a long time. We’ve had our problems with homophobia – even here in liberal Mt. Airy – but for the most part we have been met with acceptance. And that’s the way it should be. Of course, we should have equality. All people should have equality. This acceptance, no doubt, is why I sometimes take LGBTQ rights for granted.

These days, I’m probably more excited about going to a plant-based diet (which I did last fall for health reasons).  When I found out that this diet has a favorable effect on the planet, I was even more jazzed.

I’ve long been in favor of cultivating the earth — not just because it is the right thing, but because it is interesting. I’m a second-generation organic gardener, and I like bees. And I like planting bee balm and lavender and other plants that bees like.

But what I’m really excited about in going to a plant-based diet is feeling like I have a new lease on life. And I’m excited to be part of a global community.

There was a time when I felt the same way about coming out as a lesbian. Coming out in the early 1980s, meant that I didn’t have to erase myself and it meant that I had a tribe.

Recently, when reading a quote by the important gay writer Steve Abbott, I became very excited. The quote is about intersectionality and was made far before that term was commonly used. Steve died in 1992 of complications due to AIDS when he was forty-eight.

In his ahead of his time essay “Will We Survive the Eighties,” Abbott writes:

“It is clear that what we are doing now … is killing us all. And as we project these attitudes onto other species and towards the Earth’s ecological system, we are jeopardizing our very planet. I would argue that we can no longer afford to see anything – not even ‘gay liberation’ or our survival — as a separate issue needing a separate cultural or a political or a spiritual agenda. This does not mean I intend to renounce my sexual orientation, far from it. Even in times of sadness or loneliness, it remains my greatest source of strength and joy.”

As I read Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend and published recently, I was reminded that we all have our stories and that we were all forged in fire.

In 1992, I was at a writing program in Boulder Colorado, when I was scheduled to have a one on one critique session with Steve Abbott.  He was at the program but had to leave early because he was sick with full blown AIDS. Nearly thirty years later, a review copy of his book showed up in my mailbox. I did not know it was being published and I had not requested it.

To me, this was one more experience that proves that the universe works in mysterious ways.

I became Unitarian Universalist later in life – after fifty – when I found a religion that agreed with me. In particular, the Seventh Principle rings true:  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

We are all connected.

 

 

–Namaste–

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.
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This piece is airing worldwide this week on This Way Out (TWO), the syndicated LGBT radio show.  Click here to listen to the entire show.

(TWO is the first international LGBTQ radio news magazine.)

 

Beautiful Aliens

A Steve Abbott Reader

Edited by Jamie Townsend

“Will We Survive the Eighties” is the hypothetical question that titles an essay written by Steve Abbott, a gay man and a leading figure in the 1980s avant-garde literary community based in San Francisco.

In 1992, when attending Naropa University’s creative writing program. I was scheduled to have a one on one critique session with Steve Abbott – but he wasn’t there. He had attended the program and had given a reading and a workshop but had to leave early because he was sick with full blown AIDS.

Nearly three decades later, in 2019, Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend was published by Nightboat Books in New York.

Abbott survived the 1980s but just barely. He died in 1992 when he was forty-eight.

Abbott was many things – a poet, critic, novelist, and poetic cartoonist – but as his daughter Alysia Abbott (the author of Fairyland, a memoir about her relationship with her father), writes in the afterward of Beautiful Aliens:

“…his work was about building community. It was about hand-illustrating posters for the readings he organized…..It was about going out and engaging young men and women in classrooms but also in the cafes, bars, and bookstores around San Francisco, sharing his vast knowledge and encouraging them to add their voices to queer culture, in whatever way they could, even if that culture wasn’t getting mainstream attention. He knew how important it was to support voices on the edge, writers that were pushing boundaries and weren’t interested in keeping their readers comfortable.”

I found Beautiful Aliens, a selection of Abbott’s writings, mesmerizing.  For one thing, there were so many overlapping areas that we had in common – queer writing conferences that were important to me, and favorite poets and writers such as the lesbian icon Judy Grahn.

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I also found that Abbott was a writer who, in so many ways, was ahead of his time, and still has much to tell us.  In his prescient essay “Will We Survive the Eighties,” Abbott writes:

“It is clear that what we are doing now … is killing us all. And as we project these attitudes onto other species and towards the Earth’s ecological system, we are jeopardizing our very planet. I would argue that we can no longer afford to see anything – not even ‘gay liberation’ or our survival — as a separate issue needing a separate cultural or a political or a spiritual agenda.

This does not mean I intend to renounce my sexual orientation, far from it. Even in times of sadness or loneliness, it remains my greatest source of strength and joy.”

 

I found Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend, published by Nightboat Books in New York to be that rare thing – a voice from the past that addresses the present.

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

THEY Scottie

 

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Lately, reorganizing my office, I came across a framed poem by James Broughton that he had sent me. James was a friend of Jim Cory, the publisher of Insight To Riot Press. Jim sent James a collection of my poetry, When I Was Straight, that he had published in 1995 and James sent me a letter and an illustrated poem that I took a picture of and pasted below. The poem is called, “What Matters.” I am reprinting the text so you can read it too:

What Matters

What matters
matters
but not always

Some of the time
everything
matters

Much of the time
nothing
matters

In the long run
both everything
and nothing

matter a lot

-James Broughton-

 

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

THEY Scottie

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Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day.  It is a joyous occasion and a heartbreaking one.  I couldn’t help noticing this as this crisis was breaking all around me. On my daily walk, I see that the flowers are erupting this year. A chorus of bird songs fills the air.  I’ve seen the photos of the planet becoming less polluted. Yet, it is very sad that the humans are suffering.

So, I take my walks everyday and do my Buddhist mantras for healing for the planet and all of her inhabitants.

Here are some of the photos I took on my walk.

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon),click here.

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I do a lot on Twitter, and this morning I had a lot to be thankful for.  Open Table MCC in the Philippines sent me this moving YouTube video.  And then a reader sent me the comment about my novel, THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books) that I posted below for you to read.

 

It’s hard to believe that people are so ignorant that they think that hermaphrodites, gays, and bisexuals didn’t exist in Biblical times. There is evidence on pottery in Greece as far back as 10,000 yrs B.C. “They” is among one of my most recommended books, great job!

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here

THEY Scottie

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I was delighted to find that this interview was posted.


Where are you from? How has our childhood influenced you as an author?

I grew up in Levittown, a working-class suburb of Philadelphia in the states. The place was a bastion of sameness and it was very difficult there being different, but I did survive and became a writer. I was the first in my family to attend college and you never heard of being a writer as a career aspiration. I always wrote stories – even as a child. I also read a lot – you could call me a bookworm and was tall and loved to climb trees — so I almost actually had my head in the clouds. I also got a very strong work ethic from my upbringing — which came in handy.

Where did you go to college and what was your major? What were your career aspirations then?

I went to Temple University in Philadelphia – the same university where I now teach creative writing. I majored in journalism and then worked in the field and then in something called “communications” that included marketing. I worked for nonprofits – one was providing “forever” homes for legally free foster children. In another job, I worked for a nonprofit that provided services to disabled people and to elderly people. Journalism and marketing are actually good backgrounds for a creative writer because I learned how to set and meet deadlines. I also developed a sense of how important marketing is. It’s very important to get your book in front of the potential reader.

I did my own creative writing – nights, weekends, days off — the entire time I was working.

 

To read the entire interview, click here.

 

 

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They: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders by Janet Mason

 

They a biblical tale of secret genders

 

A taut, gripping, deeply intriguing tale…

Mason reimagines the life of Tamar from the book of Genesis as she takes readers on a stunning journey, vividly evoking the world of Old Testament women and intersex individuals. Content and happily barren, Tamar occupies a far different world from other women in the society, living as a hermit in the desert with her pet camel. When her twin sister Tabitha, a widower and the daughter-in-law of Judah, becomes pregnant after seducing a shepherd, Tamar connives a cunning plan to save her from being burned alive at the stake for the crime of adultery. Tabitha gives birth to intersex twins: Perez and Zerah. Tamar becomes attached to the twins and follows their line of intersex twins.

Familiar passages from the Bible come alive as Tamar questions the validity of many stories and wonders about the unanswered questions in the Bible (Eve’s so-called birth from Adam’s rib, the gender identity of the Garden of Eden’s serpent, the reference to God as a man).

As in the Legends of the Jews, Tamar in the novel is also endowed with a prophetic gift which allows her to know the future of her descendants (later in life) before she takes rebirth as an intersex. Mason vividly brings the period alive with rich details and poignantly evokes the strong bonds the women form as a sect.

Mason’s narrative is fluid and her prose clear and elegant.

Excluded from the public sphere and silenced by men, the women in the book are forced to stay dependent on men. But the female protagonists (Tamar, Judith, the Mother) in the book are fiery, cunning characters who know their ways around the stronger sex, becoming a resonant symbol of womanly strength, love, and wisdom.

Mason’s depiction of the lives of the women (living with the fear of casting as witches and getting burned alive on stakes for minor transgressions and prohibited from learning to read and write among other) explores deep roots of misogyny and issues of gender inequality (which are still prevalent in many communities), striking an occasional melancholy tone.

Without reverting to religious jargon, Mason’s book narrates the passions and traditions of the early Israelites while her characters’ gender fluidity leaves readers to contemplate their perceptions of present-day members of LGBT community. A book that is sure to garner Mason plenty of fans.

 

Highly recommended to lovers of literary fiction!

 

They: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders

by Janet Mason

Buy now

Pub date August 24, 2018

Adelaide Books Publishers

ISBN 9781949180244

Price $18.22 (USD) Paperback, $7.66 Kindle edition

 

THEY Scottie

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I received an online comment this morning that to my inquisitive mind might have well had said: why encourage people to think for themselves?

“Can we just not encourage people to read gospels written hundreds of years after Jesus’ life? They are all interpretations of him and not actually his words?” [sic]

The comment brought to mind an incident that occurred some years ago. At a meeting of the worship associates (I am one of the lay ministers at a Unitarian Universalist church) the then intern minister mentioned that the professors at the seminary she was attending “hated” Elaine Pagels (a champion of the Gnostic Gospels).  Despite my Buddhist inclination not to engage with negative comments, I had a knee jerk reaction (in religious terms one might say I had an Ejaculation) and responded that the professors probably “hated” Elaine Pagels because they were jealous that she had published so many books. Another lay minister agreed with me. Even though I hadn’t meant to, I had started a religious war. Apparently, it’s easy.

The Gnostic Gospels were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. There are some conflicting theories about when they were first written but some historians say that they were written before the New Testament was written.

The Gnostic Gospels are very different from Genesis in telling the story of how the human race was created. Readers can experience the Garden of Eden from the serpent’s eyes and ears!

3BDB915D-309B-403F-9E02-4628201F2FABThe Gnostic Gospels were known throughout history – particularly in the Middle Ages – but were always banned by the Church.

Those who were known followers of the Gnostic Gospels were deemed as heretics and burned.  Granted, in those days you could be burned at the stake for many things. But the last time I searched Twitter for the Gnostic Gospels – people were still saying to be careful of the Gnostic Gospels – because you could still be branded as a heretic.

Given the scant evidence that Jesus actually existed, you’d think the Gnostic Gospels would be welcomed as further evidence that Jesus did exist since many of them refer to him. (There also is no evidence that Jesus wrote any of the New Testament or left any writings behind.)

The Gnostic Gospels are living documents.

I and many others have been inspired by the Gnostic Gospels.

In particular, my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books – New York; Lisbon) was influenced by the Gnostic Gospels.

Also my novel The Unicorn, The Mystery (forthcoming from Adelaide Books in 2020) was inspired by the Gnostic Gospels (in particle by Thunder Perfect Mind).

Perhaps the reason the Gnostic Gospels are scorned is in the name: Gnostic (“knowing”). Apparently, it is heretical to know your own truth.

 

To read more about the Gnostic Gospels, click here:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2019/09/11/inspiration-by-gnostic-gospels-thunderperfectmind/

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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Last night, I attended a magical gathering at the main branch of the Philadelphia library where we gathered to listen to U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo read her poetry, sing and speak.
Joy talked about many things — including the importance of forgiveness so that we don’t make ourselves sick with anger and resentment.
She wondered what the world would be like if we all experienced each other’s stories.
What would the world be like if we all had that much compassion?
She spoke on #worldkindnessday — and that was auspicious. It made me think that #worldkindnessday should be everyday.
In the short video below, Joy Harjo talks about the trickster, explaining that the trickster in all cultures usually sits near the person in power and reminds that person when power is bestowed on him or her, the power does not belong to the person.  Power is meant to be shared.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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This piece is airing worldwide this week on This Way Out (TWO), the syndicated LGBT radio show.  Click here to listen to the entire show.

(TWO is the first international LGBTQ radio news magazine.)

I don’t usually think of myself as an optimist. But in reading Juno’s Swans by Tamsen Wolff (published by Europa editions), I began to think of myself as something close to an optimist: as one who has hope. After all, as a lesbian and as someone concerned about the world – I do have hope that things can change (for the better).

The reader learns at the very beginning that this is a coming of age story – where a young woman falls in love with another young woman only to have her heart broken. Perhaps it’s an all too common refrain: the beloved is in love with someone else.

The exceptionally good writing is what drew me in.  Through this writing, I learned that this was a big love with a capital ”B”. The narrator Nina – who is entering the last year of high school — falls in love with a slightly older girl named Sarah.  Nina and her best friend have gone to Cape Cod for the summer where Nina is taking acting lessons. There is a convincing back story about Nina. She has been basically abandoned by both of her parents and was raised by her grandparents.  However much she adores her grandparents, it’s easy for the adult reader to come to the conclusion that the narrator was left vulnerable by her parent’s absence.6A6100BD-5E84-416E-8EF0-D584892C12C6

However, it was the big love that the narrator feels for Sarah that I was struck by. Wolff writes that Nina slid her hand into Sarah’s, shortly after the two of them met, and that Sarah held her hand:

“The world was between our palms, so discreetly and politely pressed, so heated and limitless, curious and fervent.  The world contracted to that electric violet place.  If we had opened our hands right then, the light streaming out would have dazzled you blind. I didn’t look at her. I couldn’t look at her. I just held that pulsing jewel and marveled, brilliantly distracted.”

The novel is laden with Shakespearean references and the title comes from a reference in Shakespeare’s play “As You Like It.” The novel is set in the age of AIDS, which is evident in the lives of the characters around them. Perhaps indicative of that time period, the narrator is not into labels.

The reader finds out later that the narrator has at the same time always had boyfriends so that she can fit in at school – even if she is contemptuous of them.  Hmmm, the sarcastic part of my mind commented, things haven’t changed that much.

Still, I had hope. What if a girl can look at another girl and see the air break into pieces around her?  What if we lived in a world where labels weren’t necessary?

This world is possible as evidenced by the trueness of the author Tamsen Wolff writing in her novel Juno’s Swans as she describes Sarah’s comfy feather bed: “In it, we belonged to each other and nothing in the world could touch us.”

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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