A poem inspired by some recent conversations on the Islamic Writers Alliance list about airing dirty laundry, and the pressures to and not to talk about problems within the Muslim community.
By Pamela K. Taylor
To find the laundry
You have to enter the house
At first glance
It seems easy
A couple simple phrases
And the door swings open
No secret signs
No special handshake
Or distinctive uniform
You don’t even have to say
You can do it in your native tongue
If you can’t manage
Of foreign syllables
But once you get past the door
There are lots of rooms
And lots of doors
Most with locks
And secret keys
That sometimes aren’t words at all
But the color of your skin
Or the clothes you’re wearing
And the food you eat
Or who you’re married to
Or which imam you follow
Eventually you’ll find a room
Where you fit in
Or at least
Where they’ll let you in
The laundry’s in the corner
On the other side of the couch
Behind the coffee table
Tucked behind the curtain
You only know it’s there
Because of the stench
When you head in its direction
Be prepared for the onslaught
First a coy attempt at distraction
Then a remonstration about gossip
Next, instruction on priorities
Then a moan over exposure
Then a gasp of disbelief
And as you head for the pile
A wail of despairing, agonized honor
A flinging, plea-filled leap at your ankles
A gnashing, hate-filled lunge at your throat
If you make it past the couch
No one dares follow you there
And for good reason
You pull aside the curtain
To see the pile is wider
Than it seemed
When viewed in the cracks
Between chair and couch
Through the gauzy veil of curtain
It had looked innocuous
A bit of elbow grease
And the dirt would soon be gone
But looking at it here
Backlit by sun
The pile seems a mammoth
Tentacles of mouldery moss
Spout from shreds of decomposing cloth
RotAnd not the dry sort
Has set it
Black fungi splotches
Dapple polka dot patterns across a sleeve
Oil smears slickly on a pant leg
The lower layers are so compressed
So old and decaying
You can’t tell where one festering layer ends
And the next begins
Can it ever come clean?
You heave the pile into your arms
And try to carry it outside
Air it out
Hang it out to dry
Let fresh air and sunlight
But the people in your room
And the next room over
And the room after that
Grab at the pile in your arms
Flinging a trouser
Tossing a blouse
back to the corner
If you wait long enough,
It will rot completely away
I've always loved houses with character, whether it be old houses with odd nooks and crannies and interesting shaped walls, or houses where you walk in and are deluged with a clear sense of the owner's personality, from the furniture, the art on the walls, the color of the rooms.
My new house, like most houses we looked at, was pretty generic -- rectangular rooms, neutral colors on the floors and walls. The past week has been spent making it ours-- the kitchen is now ivory and mauve, the dining room a glorious golden organge, the living room a joyful aqua blue. My youngest picked a bright, happy lavendar and my oldest picked a calm apricot for their rooms. My twins didn't get a choice, as their room had wallpaper on one wall and I had no interest in stripping it, but it's a nice mushroomy color, with lines of roses on the wallpaper that remind me of their all-time favorite book series -- RedWall, by Brian Jacques -- a fitting room indeed. My living room is still nuetral, but it's topped with cheerful sunflower border. I'm planning on painting one hall a soft, minty green and I'm still debating on what color to choose for my office -- maybe tones of cerulean.
I think my hubby is still in shock over the blue living room, but I adore it. One those dull winter days when it seems the whole world has been sapped of color, I plan to lie on my living room floor and breathe deeply!
Ok, the first of many moving days.
Today is the day we actually get to occupy our new home! (Geesh! That sounds so conquistorial!) I can't believe we pulled this all off. It wasn't without its fraught moments, and there is still a ton of work to be done once we "move in" Really, we are moving in with sleeping bags, camping pads, and suitcases of clothes, a modest collection of cookware and a bunch of paper plates. The furniture and stuff won't be coming for a couple weeks.
Maybe I should call it camping out day...
Hizbollah and Israel
Here's a column I wrote for the Religion News Service:
Barking up the wrong tree in Israel and Lebanon
In the more or less calm aftermath of the Hezbollah-Israel war, both Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrullah and Israeli President Ehud Olmert have declared victory. Pundits are scrambling to assess the physical, psychological, social and moral wins and losses, with each side lamenting the other’s strengths and bemoaning their own weaknesses.
The real question, however, should not be who won or lost, but how do we keep this kind of war from happening again? We should not accept the notion that the conflict between Israel and its neighbors will go on forever until one side or the other is destroyed. We cannot accept the callous taking of civilian lives in pursuit of political ends – be they Israeli, Lebanese, or Palestinians lives, although clearly the Arabs have always suffer far greater losses. Nor should the wholesale destruction of the Lebanese infrastructure, or the starvation siege of the West Bank, largely unnoticed in the public eye once the fighting in Lebanon began, be considered business as usual.
The war was, despite all claims to the contrary, remarkably inconclusive. Hizbollah was not destroyed; in fact many more Lebanese have now embraced Hizbollah because of its resistance to the overwhelmingly disproportionate Israeli response. Israel did not suddenly decide that its objectives are costing too much in terms of Israeli lives or materiel; they did not decide that the Israeli state should be dismantled and everyone should pack their bags and go back to their homelands.
In the end, the only thing achieved was an angry stalemate – one in which both sides are more hardened in their hatred, their anger, their sense of outraged injustice, and fear of destruction at the hands of their enemies. The Western/Israeli demonization of Arabs, and by extension all Muslims, continues apace, with countless depictions of them as mindless, uber-violent and inhuman mad dogs; and the Arab demonization of Israelis, and by extension all Jews, as callous, fascist descendants of monkeys and swine has only intensified.
Given this state of affairs, a repeat war, after each side has retired to lick its wounds and recoup, is not only likely, it is a near certainty.
How, then, can the world act to change the situation? The first is to acknowledge the essential humanity of each side. Israelis are not demons, nor are the Hizbollah fighters or Palestinians. Until we accept the value of every human life, white or brown, Jew or Muslim, it will be far too easy to dismiss horrific collateral damage and civilian loss of life as sad but unavoidable.
The second is to acknowledge the legitimate desires of each side to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on equal terms with their neighbors. Until a dignified, secure, life uncomplicated by excessive restrictions is assured for all in the region, conflict will continue. The Arabs will have to compromise and accept the existence of Israel, and the Israelis will have to accept that the Palestinians have a legitimate right to their own existence, in their own lands, not as guests in someone else’s state. To this day, this proposition has not truly been accepted by either side. Until it is, we will have endless conflict. 60 years of open and simmering warfare should have taught us by now that neither side can be pounded into submission. As the US is learning in Iraq, subjugation of a people does not extinguish their innate drive to live a decent, self-determined life.
Third, it is time the global community said enough is enough. The UN needs to get involved. Individual countries should not be allowed to continue arming and financing one side or the other, and UN Peacekeepers should enforce a no-fire zone. Given the past 60 years of history, it is naïve to think the two sides can come to amicable peace on their own, or even with peace brokers negotiating a deal. The international community will have to force a solution, much as a solution was forced upon the former Yugoslavia.
Until these things happen, it’s going to be business as usual. Israel’s demolition of Lebanon has not wiped out Hizbollah; it has strengthened support for the organization among the Lebanese people and created a cadre of new young wanna-be terrorists across the globe. Hizbollah’s missile strikes have not weakened Isreal, but only maddened it like spurs egging on an enraged bronco. Nothing has changed, except attitudes, which have gotten worse. Until the rest of the world finds the spine to step in, there is no reason to believe things ever will change.
Slipping into racism
Two recent news items caught my eye. One item featured a doctor who was required to deplane because his prayers frightened another passenger. The second was about two South Asian men who were speaking what some passengers thought to be Arabic and looking repeatedly at their watches (I know! No one without nefarious motives would look at their watch repeatedly as they waited to board a plane!) The passengers in this second case "mutinied" -- some refused to board or and others would not let the plane take off so long as the two men were among the passengers. Eventually all three men had to get off their planes and wait for another flight the next day. To add insult to injury, the airlines did not simply reschedule them, as they normally do if you miss your flight; they had to pay extra airfare to take the next flight out of town.
It is really a sad day for us all, when government rhetoric, media hysteria, and the actions of a few radicals makes having dark skin and speaking a foreign language into a crime. We've seen it before (the Japanese and African Americans can tell us all about racial profiling), we've acknowledged before that it is wrong, and we know that this kind of racial profiling doesn't even work. Terrorists surely aren't going to call attention to themselves by praying or speaking in foreign languages, wearing distinctive clothing or large beards. The 9-11 bombers certainly didn't.
As Azhar Usman, a stand-up comedian who has a five inch beard, a swarthy complexion and does his routine in a kurta pajama outfit, says, "If I were a terrorist trying to sneak onto a plane, do you think I'd really cultivate this look???"
We have to be vigilant, yes, but we also have to be smart. In fact, this kind of all-inclusive, knee jerk reaction to someone travelling as a Muslim is exactly the sort of fare that terrorist groups use to radicalize prospective members -- we can't even pray, or talk our own languages, in an airport, that's how much they want to strip our Islam from us.
Profiling doesn't work. Torture doesn't work. Justice and Liberty for all does.
An odd concurence of events... a writer friend, Aaaminah Hernandez (her blog, Writeous Sister, is listed on my suggested blogs list) announced that she is starting a blog for short Muslim fiction, and made a call for submissions. In response, I wrote a short Islamic romance story that had been bouncing around in my head for a while. The framework of the story was a college creative writing class where the first weeks of exercises revolved around the five senses -- with exercises designed to focus on one particular sense, and then to take that focused piece and expand it to a story, adding in a new sense each week, so that by the end of the first five weeks of class you had five tight pieces and one complete and very descriptive story.
That story ended up being way over the blog guidelines, but today on a writers' forum I belong to, another friend, Purlimil, as she goes by on that particular forum, and whose blog Ink in my Coffee is also on my list, announced that she was setting up a series of exercises focusing on the senses, which would consist of two parts -- one very focused exercise each week to develop the writers skill at using that particular sense, and then an progressive exercise in which the author would write a story adding in a different sense in each week to end up with one complete, and very descriptive, story.
Of course, these exercises are nothing bew, writers since time immemorial have had to practice using all their senses in their writing (its so easy to just focus on plot and dialogue!), but still it was an odd serendipity.
If you're interested in the exercises, go to: http://thescruffydogreview.blogspot.com/
If you're interested in the story... hmm... anyone know of any publishers looking for Islamic romance?
tired of exceptional girls
I'm not talking about genius girls, or super athletes, I'm talking about the characters in so many young adult books, from historical novels to science fiction and fantasy. You know the girls I mean...
The society they live is generally very prejudicial to girls, consigning them to the kitchen alongside their mothers, giving them the menial tasks around the village or the fire circle, defining their future roles to be wife, homemaker, and mother, or, if they are lucky, they might be a healer, or a seamstress, or a craft person. If they're really, really lucky, they're royalty, a princess, although then they have no useful tasks at all as those are taken care of by the servants and nannies; they are responsible only for embroidery, french, and spinett, and of course, marrying the man of their father's choice.
But our character, our intrepid exceptional girl, desires more than that. She, alone, among the dozens or hundreds of girls in her town, village, or castle, has curiosity, ambition, a sense of adventure, a sense of humor, and a streak of rebellion. She is unique -- a smart, brave, and adventurous heroine.
It is fast becoming a hackneyed trope of many genres. Felicity or Josephina of the American Girl series; Alanna of the Lioness Rampant; Pai in Whale Rider; Catherine in Catherine Called Birdy; Alexa in the Dark Hills Divide. The list goes on and on. In fact, this list includes an amazing proportion of the current selections in young adult literature with girl heros (even in adult literature with female heros). I imagine most of the authors of books featuring such an exceptional girl think they are writing feminist books -- giving us inspiring role models that every girl can aspire toward.
It seems me, however, their very exceptionality shoots that goal in the foot. They are more often than not a single, shining example in a society full of women who, like downtrodden sheep, follow the social norms, happily living out their lives as mothers and housewives.
What message does that give us? It's loud and clear, and repeated ad naseum -- only exceptional, truly unusual girls are smart, funny, brave, adventurous, bold, curious, strong, and/or powerful. The vast majority of us, who are just average old girls and women, can expect nothing better out of life than housework and raising kids. (Not that I'm slamming raising kids, but it certainly isn't a feminist vision that motherhood is the end all and be all of 99.9% of women's lives!)(Housework... now that's a different matter... I feel no compunction in slamming that any day.)
Anyway... the message is obvious: only unique and extrodinary girls can hope to escape the age-old routine.
Of course, one could argue that the heroine is an example of why that society is a failure, but more often than not, the girl's adventure creates no change in society, not even an awareness that change might be a good thing; nor does she seek to change her society so that other girls might enjoy the same freedoms she has been enjoying during the book, she just wants to free herself from the yoke of patriarchy. Another lovely example for our young girls to follow -- hedonistic feminism, rather than one that cares about the plight of our sisters! In fact, more often than not, the reader is left with the distinct feeling at the end of the book that, having gotten over her wild ways, the heroine is now going to settle down and toe the line, marry her sweetheart and be a good wife to him and selfless mother to his children.
I'd really like to see more books where women and men are equals, or at least for the most part equals, books where the heroine is smart, brave and adventurous, but that doesn't make her one of a kind. There are some where the elite men and women are pretty much equal, while the impoverished masses are traditional, which is a step in the right direction (education and leisure after all leads to empowerment), but I'd really like more of the men and women are just different genders of human and its the human that really counts, not the male or female.
Of course, in historical fiction that isn't really possible, but then, possible doesn't seem to stop the writers of pop historical fiction from having girl characters whose attitudes are decidedly 20th century.
But for writers of fantasy and/or sf, there is little excuse. Lets imagine new possibilities, rather than sink into the Star Trek, Star Wars, patriarchy is as inevitable as Death and Taxes.
I can only sigh a HUGE sigh of relief that the London wanna be bombers were disrupted. Of course, that is said with the caveat that they indeed were wanna-be bombers. I hope they receive a speedy trial, and that there is a definitive verdict -- that the evidence is either overwhelmingly comprehensive and convincing, or completely lacking and its obvious that they were innocent and the government made a mountain out of a molehill. Unfortunately, I have to say I think they are probably guilty, given 9-11, 7-7, the Madrid bombings, the disrupted group in Toronto (although I have to admit from what the Canadian government has presented they seem to be more hot air than anything else, especially given the presence of a government mole who admitted to a certain amount of instigating.).
At this point, I don't really care if a few innocent men sit in jail for a couple months, because of the consequences of what would have happened if indeed they are guilty. I realize that is a slippery slope to walk down... pre-emptive arrest (or rather arrests for conspiracy to commit a crime) MUST be accompanied by timely trials, we cannot have men and/or women sitting in jail for years and years with no trial, in case they are actually innocent of the crime they are accused with. But nonetheless, even if it means we're headed toward some Phillip Dick-ish nightmare, I'm glad the British authorities disrupted a plot.
The mere thought of those planes flying into the World Trade Center still brings tears to my eyes, and a lump in my throat. There are days I wish I hadn't been watching it live. And then, there are days when I think God had definate plans for me, in having me see it on live TV. I very rarely watch television. For years I didn't have a TV; now we have one that gets two channels. Even when I was at the coffee shop where I was watching that morning, I usually sat with my back to the TV. But for some reason Sept., 11 2001 I decided to watch CNN for a bit. I ended up watching for four hours. There are times when I see this odd occurrents as a much needed push for me personally to become more active in speaking out against fundmentalisms.
I tend to be a very tolerant person, and believe firmly in every person's right to freedom of religion. But, while I believe that every person has a right to be a fundamentalist if they want to be, I also believe that I have a duty to consistenly be a voice for tolerance and human rights. I've always believed this, but I haven't always acted on it. At times, I've been quiet about things which bothered me out of respect for another person's religious beliefs. But not anymore. I don't care if it offends someone, if I hear anti-semitism I call the person on it, if I hear hatred for America, I call the person on that too -- America has made some horrible foreign policy choices, and I'm very concerned about certain domestic programs not receiving enough funding, about corporate well-being taking precedence over individual well-being, but having lived abroad, in a communist county, having been shadowed by secret police who were none too inconspicuous in that country, having had to apply for travel permits and seen the consequences of lack of freedoms, I can say that despite my problems with America, I can honestly say the freedoms the American people mostly take for granted -- freedom of job choice, freedom of movement, of religion, of speech and the right to dissent, make this country one of the best places to live. So when people try to tell me how evil America is, I have to say something.
9-11 didn't change that, but it made it more urgent.
So I found out today that I need proof that we are actually moving into the school district we plan to move into in order to enroll my kids. Proof like a utility bill, a purchase agreement on a house, or a copy of a forward of address order from the post office. If the MSD is feeling maganamious they might take a sworn affadavit from my realtor that I'm actively pursuing purchase of a house in the neighborhood. Otherwise, my kids are out of luck.
Given that it is nigh unto impossible to get into a house in two weeks, it seems like my kids may not be allowed to enroll in Cincinnati schools. Of course, I've already withdrawn them from the Indianapolis schools, as we won't be living here much longer. (Hubby has to start work by the 28th). And since we aren't going to be living here, they certainly won't be re-enrolled here.
Which means they really can't go to school. If we're moving, they can't go here, and if we still in the process of moving, they can't go there. Great! Homeschooling... hmmm... NOT!
Today I am indebted to my little brother.
It was a crazy day between visiting with a friend before we leave Indy, picking up Noora who had been at a sleepover, cancelling my gym membership, picking up school transcripts, and trying to hammer out a dozen other details. At one point, I ran into my house for just a few seconds and managed to run out again without my keys, and with all the doors locked.
We usually leave a spare key with a neighbor, but for some reason my husband had moved that spare key into the husband's car, which was, naturally, at work not in the garage. So that was out.
We used to have a lock box with a spare key, but it got very stiff and rusty and so we haven't been using it for the past year or so, so that was out.
I used to have a spare house key in my car, but we had given that to our daughter a while ago and I never got a new spare.
I used to carry a spare car key in my wallet, but had removed that a while back when my parents were here, and never replaced it. (Can you tell it is not that uncommon for me to lock my keys in the house or the car?)
My hubby didn't really want to come home from work at 1 in the afternoon, and I didn't exactly want to sit in the hot car with my daughter and my friend for a few hours until he came back to let us in and let me get my car keys.
And then it dawned on me -- my little brother once taught me how to pick a lock with a credit card. In fact, his demonstration a few years ago of how quickly he could pick our front door lock led to us putting in a new jamb protector that makes it impossible to pick the lock. Our two back doors are difficult because of all the insulation, which gets in the way and makes it hard to slide the card in.
But we had one door that I could pick... and did... in an alarming 15 seconds. (Yes, I'm going to go get a deadbolt for that one, or one of those door jamb protectors. That or a big, mean, dog!)
I have to admit that the knowledge of how to pick a lock with a credit card is not exactly what I would have expected to learn from my little brother, who is now an upstanding citizen, if a bit individualistic. Nor is it a skill I would have ever anticipated to come in handy.
Fortunately, today it saved me several hot, boring hours. Just goes to show, you never know when you might need to know how to break and enter...
I saw an ad today for a signature perfume for men being marketed by Antonio Banderas. I have to admit, the idea of a good smelling Antonio Banderas is...well... wow... I'm left speechless. Breathless even.
My grandfather used to wear Old Spice every day. When I smell Old Spice now, it reminds me of him.
Perhaps something for writers to remember when they are searching for ways to add depth to male characters.
We've taken a momentous decision... we are leaving our home of the past 11 years and moving to Cincinnati! My husband got a good job offer, one that was really too good to pass up, even though it means my oldest daughter will have to finish her last two years before college in a new high school. (One of the biggest cons of moving, aside from breaking up a lot of social contacts, etc.)
Needless to say, it's going to be a big change for us -- Noora has always lived in our current home, and Saara and Ameera were only a year old when we moved in, so they don't remember living anywhere else. Tasneem is the one who worries me most, as her academic program is going to be broken up in the middle, and she will move away from friends she's known for years and years. I'm sure she will do ok -- her academics are very strong and she is committed to doing well, but she may get awfully lonely. As always, thank god for the Internet and instant messaging; it will make it so much easier to keep in touch with her friends.
Fortunately, we have friends in the Muslim community in Cincinnati, so it's not like we are moving into a totally unfamiliar atmosphere. We also already know where the opera house is, as Saara, Ameera and I went there to see Margaret Garner (a new opera with libretto by Toni Morrison, and which is definitely worth seeing). Also we've been to the zoo, the aquarium, and other attractions. The orienteering club in Cincinnati is also more active than the one in Indiana, so that ought to be a big plus, as well.
Best of all, because I'm a free-lancer, most of my work can come with me. Not all of it, but enough to keep me from being totally workless. Of course, with buying a new house, getting the kids enrolled in school, finding new trumpet, clarinet and flute teachers, a new dojo, and figuring out soccer programs, I may not have much time for writing for some time to come.
Writer in need
Forwarded from a private writers' forum I belong to:
What can you get for $2? Or in English pounds, just a few pennies over a quid? Not much, for the most part.
But now $2 will get a writer out of a hole.
No, not me, but a friend, EJ Knapp. He’s slowly sinking, and we have the chance to throw him a lifeline.
From his blog: I hit the stress wall a year ago and it wasn’t pretty. I ended up losing my job and going on disability. Since then I’ve been struggling to keep things afloat, juggling credit card payments, a mortgage on a house that refuses to sell, rent and a car payment. The credit cards are long gone and by now my credit rating is sub-zero. My retirement account is gone. The house will likely be lost. And five days ago Exchange Bank took my car.
Now don’t raise an eyebrow, thinking this is the run-up to a scam - it’s not. EJ came up with a pretty audacious idea. He has 20 days to save his car, his lifeline. He needs money, but not charity. He’s offering you something for next to nothing. Read on…
Backspace is a writers’ group we both belong to. A large proportion are pro writers, serious novelists with books on the shelves in bookstores, and many of them have donated stories and poetry for sale through his site, at $2 a hit. The list is growing fast. The plan is 1500 sales in 20 days. And all it takes is $2 from you to score some great reading while giving EJ back his lifeline.
Is that too much to ask? What have you got to lose? Buy a story, save a life.http://www.ejknapp.com/1500.htm
I got the good news yesterday that a short story I had written for an anthology, "Tales of the Slug" has been accepted! Yay! This also means that I'll be travelling to Seattle for RustyCon 24
where the book will be launched this January! Double Yay!!
This accomplishes two goals for me:
1) I've been wanting to expand my attendance to some new cons, and naturally it's nicer to attend a con where you have something to show for it. Between the con membership that is part of the payment for the story and frequent flyer miles accumulated over the years, I'm actually going to be able to go to this one.
2) I've been trying to publish sf shorts to increase name recognition, pad my resume, etc. So far my acceptances have been from non-sf magazines and ezines. Which is good, but I'd really been wanting to reach a sf fandom base, so this is a start. Of course, it isn't the same as getting in Azimov's or SFF, but I'm not complaining. :D