24 January 2011

Lara's List of Lady Writers

I'm jumping into the list craze here and starting a list of 100 great books by Ladies.  I know, it's possible that I'm only contributing to the ghettoization of Lady Writers, and so I'm interested to know what you all think of the categorization of literature by gender and race.  Segregation or separation?  Necessary or not? 

Since so much was made in 2010 and early 2011 about the paucity of women writers who a) win major prizes, b) get reviewed in major places by major reviewers and get praised and Great Writers and c) get big stories in highbrow magazines, so I thought I'd at least take a stab and encouraging more thought and action in this area.  I do think that lists have their place in consciousness raising and in helping us to examine our assumptions and actions.  I know I get thoughtless and lazy pretty quickly after I resolve to change and be more aware, and I use lists to help me set intentions and to focus my attention on Important Things.  And while many bloggers are discussing this same issue currently, I'd love to hear what the readers and writers I commune with think, and what books they recommend as well.

(Also, in my New Year's spirit of reformation and retrenchment, I'm trying to broaden my reading to include some novels that aren't detective novels, reading I use to soothe myself and relax at the end of the day, lazy reading I've been trapped in since I haven't been writing papers or studying for exams.  I only read Literature lately when I'm teaching it.  Detective novels have their beautiful place in my life.  But I'm trying to Reform a bit, and Improve.  So help.  Please.)

This is an off-the-top-of-my-head stab at ten books that I think are important to read, written by Ladies.  A lot of the texts, but not all, chosen this week explore mother/daughter themes, domesticity, and reproduction, and these themes seem especially prone to being labelled and dismissed as "women's writing".  This list is also comprised of many texts that were on the bandwagon of works that treated these subjects seriously, literarily, and as such, are pretty well known.  

Each week I'd like to look at some different themes/areas of Women's Lit (again, your suggestions are greatly appreciated!) and add ten more titles to the list, using your suggestions.  I think I will do a separate poetry list, unless you have a better idea.

1)  Beloved by Toni Morrison
2)  The Book of Margery Kempe  by Margery Kempe
3)  Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
4)  To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
5)  The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
6)  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
7)  The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook by Gertrude Stein
8)  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
9)  Wide Saragasso Sea by Jean Rhys
10) Tell Me a Riddle by Tillie Olsen

20 January 2011

Pink Dresses

There is always a day in each season when I think I will never want it to be summer ever again. Ever. And then there is always a polar opposite day when I think Summer is the most glorious season of all, and I can't wait for it to come. It puts me in mind of Left Handed Son of Old Man Hat who tells the story of how, when he was little, he thought summer and winter were locations rather than times--summer was up in the mountains where the sheep grazed when the heat came, and winter was down in the valley where the sheep were moved when the snows came. The Son of Old Man Hat recalled always wishing he was in the winter place when he was in the summer place and the summer place when he was in the winter place.

The day when I hate winter hasn't come yet, however. Today I was still in love with the soul moving crests, shadows, contours, and declivities on Timp when she's covered in snow and tinged with pink from the sunrise, and wrapping a rabbit-fur stole of clouds around her shoulders.

Though I had some tiny stirrings of longing for spring when I looked at spring dresses on the Nordstrom's website (their dress ads always suck me in), and I saw this picture of the girls at Easter in 2003. Just for a minute I thought I wish I was in Arizona sitting on the back porch with my family, smelling orange blossoms.

Then I pulled myself back to the present and realized I am still enjoying my leftover Christmas decorations, hearty stews, and long, cozy nights at home with kids, dinner, homework, and stories.

Today I 'm grateful for enjoyment. A year ago I was depressed, and today, for now, I'm not. How things always, always change!

P.S.--I'm also grateful for a warm home. One time the director of Food and Care Coalition told my students about a client who froze to death in his car outside their facilities one winter night. Please take a minute to vote to give them funding to expand their shelter--see the widget on the right side of my blog.

06 January 2011


I've been explaining these resolutions to myself in my head for several weeks now. I think I have them sort of worked out, even though my very first resolution was against resolve:

1) Be more aware and observant. Be present with people and don't let goals and what you think should be happening get in the way of what is. So all of the things on this list are subject to number one, and I have to be ready and willing to let them go if they interfere with number one. Number one is my guiding principle for 2011. Unless observation tells me to get rid of number one. Or something like that.

2) Go for a walk once a week. This seems modest and attainable, and perhaps shocking to you folks who love the outdoors. Christian has dubbed me the indoors-y type, and he couldn't be more right. I'm so happy in a small, cozy hole, like Mrs. Tittlemouse. But I think I'll be happier if I get more sunlight, look around more.

3) Formally express gratitude once a week.

4) Read the New Testament.

5) Finish the libretto begun in 2010.

6) Limit kids' screen time to weekends only, thereby giving us more time for:

7) Family novel reading. Ingrid jolted me into this one last week when I commented about how much she and Eva used to read and loved to be read to. "Yeah," she said. "No computers." I've become lazy with the kids and don't read to them as much. They get crabby, lazy, and unimaginative when they're online or watching TV too much. Eva and Ingrid didn't have a TV a lot of the time growing up, and I want the younger kids to have the benefit of limited screen time. If you're so inclined, list your favorite read alouds for an almost six and almost eight year-old. I read Harry Potter to E and I at that age. We read Stuart Little and Little House on the Prairie last year.

8) Go to Salt Lake once a month. Now that the kids are a bit older, I need to get out of my rut of a quick dinner or movie in Provo and get back to my earlier, more adventurous ways. We used to go to so many cool events, which was easy to do when we lived in NYC, San Francisco, and Seattle. It's a little harder to do here, but necessary to maintaining a connection with what's going on artistically in the world.

9) Work on duo with Christian. In the picture above, snapped by our friend Hailey Meyer Liechty, we are performing with master percussionist Greg Campbell at our December Salon. A link to our duo can be found on the side of the blog. I really enjoy this work, and want to do it more. It feels like a perfect meshing of our particular skills and relationship. The text, the improv (it's all improvised except for the text), Christian's genius with timbre and form, etc.

10) Work in small, daily practice, like I learned to do in yoga, but with my job/career/art or whatever it is called. I don't even know what it's called or what it is. Be comfortable with that. Let it be what it is and just do little, enjoyable things with little enjoyable challenges. But don't be in charge. Don't try to control. Just live and do. (Please don't mock my mish-mash of eastern philosophy influenced thinking here. It's working for me right now.)

There is almost nothing I love more than hearing other people's New Year's Resolutions. Feel free to post many of them in comments.


Bedraggled Tree 2010

This photo of Eva and Ingrid reminds me, for some reason, of when they were little and they used to play "Lizzie and Jane" from Pride and Prejudice, which used to play constantly in the background of our lives in Seattle.

I can't bring myself to take down the now sagging and brittle lopsided Christmas tree. Is there a way to savor the days more slowly? It is so dark and cold, and we still need the suggestion of warmth from our tree lights--I'm not ready to give it up. In years past, I've been so glad to put away the decorations, so sick of holiday music and rich food and festive gatherings, but this year it seems to have barely happened. Is this what happens when you get older?

Though it passed in a blur, little highlights stand out, like Yorshire pudding, many versions of the Hallelujah chorus, Christian's homemade eggnog, pierogies, paper cranes, onion tart, old friends, cheese platters, and the kids' nativity.

This was a sweet, sweet year. Christian gave me one of the best presents of my life when he compiled all of my emails from the nineties, when he and I shared a University of Washington email account, printed out and bound. I used to write a weekly news update to my family and friends, and so it's somewhat like a journal, and I've made so many little discoveries in there, found so many things that shed light on my life and my children's lives now. I've been reading it like a suspense novel every night. And then Christian went back through old hard drives and printed out all of my poetry since 1985, that's right, 1985, when I wrote my first poem and gave it to Leslie Norris so he could tell me what a genius I was, and organized it alphabetically with different versions, etc. I know this was very time consuming, and I can't say how touched I am by this labor of love.

The day before Christmas, Ingrid rounded up all of the kids and went with her friend photographer Nate Lebaron to Rock Canyon where he took many beautiful photos of the kids, including the one above. How did she know I'd been wanting a group photo of the kids for so long? She framed these photos and had them ready by Christmas morn, although she had just barely arrived home from her first semester at college and was in an extreme state of sleep and food deprivation. Eva made a great collage and framed it--I love her art work so much--and Lula gave me a silvery gray scarf that I wear every day. Last but not least, Moses and Cecily gave me two enormous plastic cocktail rings, one in green and one in blue that they purchased and wrapped without my knowledge at Santa's Secret Workshop at school. They know my taste so well.