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Homophobia is an old habit and homophobia in religion, in particular, is becoming an old habit.

It was interesting that my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books – New York/Lisbon), was maligned online today, the same day that a substantial number of brave graduating students of Notre Dame College walked out of their commencement speech given by Mike Pence.  Pence is slated to appear at a number of Christian colleges in the upcoming weeks and the adverse reaction of the students is causing concern among Christian conservatives. There is talk of students withholding funding.

To all this, I say to the students: Good job! Good for you in standing up for yourselves and others!

Good for you in being part of the changing world!

On this glorious spring day with the blossoms beckoning, the good news about the #notmyjesus students and the #MuellerTime report finally revealed, I opened Twitter only to be told that I am going to hell. The full text of the Tweet is below.

Perhaps it is because I have gotten such good feedback on my novel, THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders, that being told that I am going to hell does not produce the desired effect.

Some of the good feedback, I have gotten about THEY:

A colleague in Los Angeles let me know that her MCC book discussion group is reading and discussing THEY. (MCC stands for the Metropolitan Community Church, founded in 1968 with a  focus on human rights that includes (but is not limited to) the LGBTQ community.)

At a local spiritual gathering, a trans woman (who I remembered from my church when she was presenting as male) responded enthusiastically “you’re that Janet Mason?!” and then told me that the book was important to her and in her library in a LGBTQ community center — where the rainbow flag flies outside prominently — in a nearby small town.

The Queer Church of England (also harassed) retweeted one of my Tweets about THEY and I have also from a Priest from England that he ordered and plans to read the novel.

I also have gotten a large number of glowing reviews including Gregg Shapiro who wrote in the San Francisco Bay Area Reporter that the publication of my new novel THEY “is occurring at the right time.”

Of course, there’s a lot I could say about the offensive Tweet if I wanted to take the time to dissect it. But what I will say is that change is always possible, and that forgiveness is possible too.

I will pray for you to change your errant ways.

 

@thetruthspirit

homosexuals will NEVER enter Heaven

men who practice sodemy r ABOMINATIONs to the ONE GODs,Jesus&Heaven

Dont FOOL yourselves

REPENT&STOP your cocksucking ways

 

In addition to being available through you local library, THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders is available through your local bookstore or online.

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

 

Janet Mason novelist area resident

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Last night, in the writing class that I teach, a mature student asked me why I first started to write. I was quiet for a moment and said I would have to think about it. We were talking after class and as we exited the room at Temple University, I commented that I suspected that the reason had to do with writing being a way that I was able to stay in my own little world — and that I preferred that world to the outside one.

When I was a child, I was always making up stories and writing them down. I could often be found in the rustling leaves of the apple tree in my backyard where I climbed up with a book in my back pocket.  As I sat among the branches reading, that book and that tree was my rocket ship, my way of transporting myself to other places.

Once again at the end of a writing project, I find myself on the uphill climb (Sisaphysean) that often feels futile.  Even though I have come to terms with rejection (realizing that it  has little if anything to do with me), I still find it a mildly depressing, if necessary, part of writing. For that reason, I wanted to remind myself why I write, so here goes …18C21D96-F37F-4602-9BA3-C821E5E747DD

1)      To learn something new –

In the writing of my book, Tea Leaves, a memoir of mothers and daughters (Bella Books, 2012), I researched the labor movement and combined my findings with conversations with my mother about her life and her mother’s life. In my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books, 2018), I finally read the Bible and found the story of Tamar in Genesis as my entry point.  I wrote the novel as an answer to my question of how marginalized people survived in a harsh desert culture.

2)      To have fun —

and to live (for a time) in the alternate worlds that I create. This gives me an internal landscape that I seem to need, something inside me that I can hold onto.

3)      To preserve memory –

After Tea Leaves was published, I found myself doing readings only from the funny parts of the book.  My mother had a wicked sense of humor. Yet, years ago, I thought that I may have emotionally damaged myself by spending so much time working on Tea Leaves. But now I see that I never could have remembered the details had I not written this in the years immediately following my mother’s death. A friend once observed (at my book launch in the old Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia) that my mother was a palpable presence as I read about her.

05FD236A-C6AE-4BB8-93F3-1D700997224C4)   To tell my story to the world –

Only lastly do I reach the point that publishing brings me to. I want to tell stories that are meaningful to people. Perhaps it is a tall order, but I also want to change the world. When I found that my publisher Adelaide Books displayed THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders at the Frankfurt book fair (described as the most political ever) and that my novel was selected for possible publication in other languages, I was thrilled.  Still, publication is the last on my list and perhaps inconsequential compared with the other reasons I write.

All of this, makes me wonder – what are the reasons that you write?

 

In addition to being available through you local library, THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders is available through your local bookstore or online.

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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When I heard about National Library Week, April 7-13, I immediately wanted to blog about libraries.

But my deep belief in libraries is too large to be contained on one week.

When I heard that the Free Library of Philadelphia was order multiple copies of my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books; 2018) for its branches, I was thrilled.

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The Free Library also has multiple copies of my book Tea Leaves: a memoir of mothers and daughters(Bella Books; 2012).

I began hearing from people from coast to coast, that they were ordering my novel THEY through their local libraries.  I was thrilled, of course.

When a library buys a book, it means that many people can read it. Libraries are the great equalizer of knowledge. And in a nonreading culture (even if this was not true) libraries are essential. There is a very important link between reading and thinking.

Libraries — and librarians — teach people how to think.

(In addition to being available through you local library, THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders is available through your local bookstore or online.

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

To read a previous post about me reading from my book Tea Leaves at a local branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, click here.

 

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This morning, I gave a talk titled “Religion?” at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Avenue in Northwest Philadelphia.  I discuss being at a workshop with the feminist witch Starhawk, my understanding of the differences between religion and spirituality, and how being raised secular enabled me to write my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books — New York/Lisbon).

You can see my words below on the YouTube video or read the talk below that.

 

 

Religion?

Some months ago, my partner, Barbara, and I were attending a nearby workshop with the feminist witch Starhawk.  At dinner I was sitting across from Starhawk when she was talking about the liberal theologians that she works with. A woman sitting next to me said that religious people are part of the problem.  She mentioned that religious people elected you know who.

I replied that it is true that religious people did put you know who in office but that they were CONSERVATIVE religious people and that there are plenty of liberal religious people.

Suddenly it was as if I was looking at myself from the outside:  Really, you’re defending religion? a voice hissed skeptically.  Maybe it was the ghost of my card-carrying atheist bible burning mother.  Perhaps it was the voice of my younger self that pretty much happily ignored all things religious.

In any event, the voice was so strong that I stopped defending liberal religions and went back to eating my dinner.

Five years ago, or so, when I became a member of this congregation, I recognized that I had found a religion that fit my values.  I knew that coming here worked for me – and that my partner and I love being part of the community here.  In fact, Barbara already knew many of the people here because of her job at the Mt. Airy post office, which she is now retired from. And we had a few long-time friends here such as the multi-talented Jane Hulting who many of you know as our music director.  Jane rescued us during a hard time and became our yoga instructor.  We are now taking qigong with Jane, and I still consider her my spiritual teacher.

But having been raised secular, a part of me was still wondering what religion was and where I fit into it. Of course, the Unitarian Universalists (or UUs as we are often called) encourage freedom of thought and value reading as evidenced by our well-known book sales.  And, of course, we came to a tradition that is welcoming of the LGBTQ community.  When I initially expressed surprise to my partner that the congregation was so open minded, she replied that we wouldn’t be here otherwise. Right again.

I’m sure this all factored into my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders which I wrote about five years ago and which was published by Adelaide Books.  In fact, as I mentioned at a recent reading, I probably would not have been able to write that book had I not been raised secular. In other words, had I been raised to regard the Bible as, well, Gospel rather than myth and story and had that Gospel instructed me to hate myself then I would had justifiably left and avoided religion for the rest of my life.  I know plenty of people who have had this experience and believe me, I do understand.

So, I was still left wondering what religion was all about – and why I am drawn to it. Then a while ago, I heard fellow member Wayne Boyd talk about the difference between religion and spirituality and what being a member of this congregation means to him.  He talked about the rules of religion being on the outside of him and spiritual development being on the inside. I sat in the pew and thought “Aha.”

A crucial piece of the puzzle fell into place.religion

For many reasons I have never cared for rules. And my early self-destructiveness aside, my adolescent 1970s motto that “rules are made to be broken” served me well: particularly in coming out as a lesbian in my early twenties and in becoming a creative writer – a field in which rules really are meant to be broken.

But in the spiritual journey of my inner self, I have come to value myself and others as important entities on equal footing. This is a value that I have long held, but in this UU culture where the first principle is — The inherent worth and dignity of every person – I value and believe in myself even more and that means that I value and believe in each one of you even more.

In my UU journey, religion must certainly mean something as different to me as it does to each one of you.  In fact, I think difference is a big part of what religion means to me.  And so, I go deeper into myself, through my yoga practice and through my Buddhist meditation — and through being a member of this community.

Is that religion?

 

Namaste

 

THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders is available online, through your local bookstore or library.

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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Note: 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 have long been fascinated by the figure of Alain Locke – who I knew as the first African American Rhodes Scholar (in 1907), the philosopher that the civil rights leader Martin Luther King spoke about, the influential Howard University professor (the historically black university located in Washington D.C.), and perhaps most importantly (to me) as the philosophic architect of the Harlem Renaissance. Locke was known for the fact that he championed such writers as Zora Neale Hurston.

That I had heard he was gay only made him more interesting. Then I learned that the long-awaited biography of Locke was coming out written by Jeffrey C. Stewart titled, The New Negro, The Life of Alain Locke had been published in 2018.  It was published by Oxford University Press and received the 2018 National Book Award for nonfiction.Alain Locke

Then the book arrived.  I have to admit that I was daunted by its 800 pages – 878 to be exact. Also, like many people, if not most, I rarely read biographies.  But once I started reading this one, I found it so fascinating that I could barely put it down – even though it is physically hard to pick up because it is so heavy.  So, even if you rarely read biographies, I would suggest reading this one.  It’s a real page turner and you’ll learn a lot of important historical information.

Locke – as Stewart writes – was “a tiny effeminate gay man – a dandy, really, often seen walking with a cane, discreet, of course, but with just enough hint of a swagger, to announce to those curious that he was queer, in more ways than one, but especially in that one way that disturbed even those who supported Negro liberation.  His sexual orientation made him unwelcome in some communities and feared in others as a kind of pariah.”

Some of the intriguing things that I learned was that Locke was very close to his mother, in fact after her death in 1922, left him bereft, and after a stint in travelling in Europe where he could be more sexually open, and after being fired for a time by Howard University for being too vocal on race relations (although he was later hired back), he poured himself into their shared love for art and commenced on starting the Harlem Renaissance, with the idea that there was liberation in art that was African American identified.

The Harlem Renaissance loomed so large in my mind that even though I already knew that it was basically over by 1929, when the American stock market collapsed, it was rather depressing to read about it again.  Harlem, long the African American section of New York City, was hit very hard by the Great Depression.  The Harlem Renaissance, however, remains an important part of history – and many African American identified visual artists and writers were influenced and inspired by it long after the 1920s, as Stewart writes.

Some of the things that I learned that intrigued me was that Locke was very close to his mother and that after her death, he replicated his relationship with her to some extent with several older women who were important to him.  I also found it fascinating that the campus of University of Oxford (where Locke found himself after he won the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship), was a hotbed of gay male activity – and that this was the same university that the gay legend Oscar Wilde was graduated from in 1878, three decades before Locke arrived.  I also learned that Locke faced less racism in Europe.  However, some of the major racist obstacles that Locke faced at Oxford were created by other American Rhodes Scholars.

Most of what I learned was that Locke, a black, gay man, faced major obstacles in his life because of racism and homophobia. Despite these obstacles he thrived, and he changed the course of history.

His life is inspiring.

 

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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 was delighted to find that World of Gender, a site on Twitter that defines itself as “An exploration of cultures around the globe which understand that gender is so much more than binary” selected my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books — New York/Lisbon) as one its suggested top two reads of the year.  World of Gender suggests that people celebrate International Women’s Day by picking up a copy.  The Tweet, they sent is below the photograph of THEY and Transfigured.
THEY World of Gender
@WorldofGender

 

My favorites this year. From authors

&


Celebrate
#InternationalWomensDay

with these books.  #FridayReads
I like them so much I grabbed the links for y’all.
#Books2Read
THEY –
amzn.to/2H8UBVt
TRANSFIGURED
amzn.to/2zu9QFu

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Note: 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.)

One of the things that I value as a lesbian, is being connected to the rest of the world. Hence the rainbow flag and the saying that we are everywhere. We are. That fact led me to the novel that I was recently immersed in called Disoriental by Nagar Djavadi published in 2018 by Europa Editions.  It was translated from the French by Tina Kover.

That the narrator identifies as a lesbian, one could legitimately argue is a sub-layer of the book. But looking through this same prism through a different angle, one could argue that the narrator’s sexuality is critical.  Being a lesbian from an extremely homophobic culture gave the narrator an extra layer of courage to tell this important story.

disoriental

Disoriental, a finalist for The National Book Award, is the story of a young girl who grows up in revolutionary Iran and goes through the Iranian revolution with an inside view provided to her by her revolutionary father.  As a North American who was in college in the time of the Iranian revolution, I remember the media coverage and knew some of the facts including that the Shah was backed by the United States, but I did not know everything and have long been puzzled at the repressive outcome of the revolution.  As a result, this novel which was written with a protagonist who lived in Iran with her family who later were all forced into exile, was – for me – filled with “aha” moments. The protagonist’s revolutionary, intellectual father was opposed to the regimes of both the Shah and Khomeini.

The story is told through the lens of an adult woman, who is going through the medical process in France (the country she and her family was exiled to) to become a parent. The narrator writes that she always valued childhood as the best part of life and has long been determined to continue her line through giving birth.

I was particularly impressed with Djavadi’s handling of the importance of history and how personal history intertwines with world events. The writing of this novel caused her to reflect on the human rights violations against LGBT people in her native land:

“In Iran, homosexuality is considered a supreme violation of God’s will, and is a crime punishable by death. Women as well as men, sometimes only teenagers, are blindfolded and hanged from cranes in public. Homosexuality is generally not cited as the main reason for these executions, due to pressure from Western countries and the fear that these acts will damage their complex relationships with Iran. In any case, it’s estimated that, since 1979, more than four thousand of these public hangings have taken place.”

Reality is rarely comforting, but it is necessary. I was riveted by Disoriental and turning its pages I pondered the mysterious forces of fate and existence and the importance of familial bonds – in particular, the book raises the bonds between fathers and daughters.  Ultimately, I found it to be not only a very good read — but a work of literature that brought me to reflect more keenly on my own life.

 

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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