Thursday Recommendation: March

March” by John Lewis

Source: Graphic Novels


These books really need no words from me. But if you’ve managed to miss “March,” it’s a trilogy of graphic novels that recount some of what John Lewis himself saw, heard and experienced first hand during the Civil Rights movement.

It took me one morning to get through the first book.

Seriously, it’s that good. The writing is authentic and powerful. The details of Lewis’ life are incredible. It reads like an audio recording, making the experience of reading “March” something like watching Lewis’ memories play out before your eyes as he narrates them.

It’s worth reading. It’s worth learning. It’s worth sharing.

Lewis’ words feel extra impactful today. There is a scene that cuts abruptly from Lewis and other Freedom Riders getting beaten by the Ku Klux Klan to the inauguration of Barack Obama. The starkness of that contrast forced me to stop for a moment and compose myself.

It’s an incredibly powerful moment, and it’s just one of many in “March.” These are books I’m going to keep close at hand for the next few years, that’s for sure.

Wednesday Practice

Challenge: Three nouns. Got three random nouns from here and I have to work with them.

courage train necklace


After years and years of trains, she stepped onto a boat.

“Doing ok?” her companion asked.

She nodded, unwilling to admit how much courage it had taken for her to step from solid land onto a rolling, unstable, treacherous dock.

Something made the dock pitch a little to one side. Or maybe nothing did. Maybe the fear and panic had infected her brain and tilted her entire world.

Either way she grasped the railing and tried not to scream.

Her partner guided her onto the deck of the ship, which, she had to admit, felt a little more steady. “You’re ok,” he said.

She knew he was right, but that didn’t convince her to loosen her hold on her grandmother’s necklace as they boarded the ship.

WAW: Women in stories

Writing About Writing: A once-a-week post about some aspect of writing. I’m not an expert; I’m just some guy. Take it with a grain of salt.


There’s been a lot of talk about women, so I wanted to talk about women in books.

 

They are bullshit

Let’s get right to the point. Women in books are often bullshit. Female characters suck. They’re love interests, objects and sidekicks. They don’t matter, they don’t have agency and they certainly don’t have opinions or lives or personalities. *cough* Wheel of Time *cough*

One way people have tried to over-correct for this is with the “strong woman” trope. It’s almost worse than just blatant sexism. You’ve seen this character. She’s so strong. She does nothing but mindlessly kill. Until she’s shown the light or LOVE and becomes a real woman. *COUGH* Wheel of Time *COUGH*

Fuck that character. She is no more a real woman than the voiceless marriage prizes of other stories.

Write real people

There are examples of people doing it right, authors creating women who matter and who are real people with agency and complexity (they’ll be in the resources below).

How? In the words of George R. R. Martin, “You know, I’ve always considered women to be people.”

It’s not a mystery. How would you write a well-rounded male character? What if I told you you could do the same thing when writing a female character?

Don’t believe me? Believe them

There are authors out there doing good work with female characters. Read them. See how their women are real and complex people. That doesn’t mean they’re all heroes. That doesn’t mean they’re all strong. That doesn’t mean they’re all lesbians. It means they’re all humans.

Resources (NOTE: It’s not an accident that these authors, excepting Martin, also write racially diverse characters):

  • A N Y thing by N.K. Jemisin. Seriously, ANYTHING
  • Kate Elliot’s Spirit Gate deals with complex women in complex situations. It also confronts the sexism they experience head on
  • Game of Thrones, the books, have great women. I know the TV series is controversial, but I found the books very honest
  • The Malazan series is SUPER REAL in all regards. Every character is incredibly in depth

Friday Whatever: Fighting

Set up my Gmail account to send some emails if I die, but let me just say it here too:

I don’t regret fighting nazis.

I don’t regret fighting nazis.

I don’t fucking regret fighting nazis, no matter what happens.

I’ve had the privilege of living a life in which dying prematurely was an abstract concept. I’ve had the privilege of living a life in which dying because of who I am or simply because I’m out in public was an abstract concept. Yes, I’m queer. Yes, I’m a woman. But I always had a foundation of whiteness to stand on and I think when it’s always there it’s hard to even realize how much safer that foundation keeps you than other people. I don’t LOOK gay and I DO look white. And therefore I’ve been safe.

But safety is over. I willingly forsake it, as I should have long, long ago. I accept the consequences. I’m not interested in dying. I’d really like to avoid it. But I accept that it could happen. They fight with guns; we fight with words.

I know what it’s like to fight as a woman, to feel scared as a woman, to feel misunderstood as a queer person, to feel threatened. But I think we’re entering truly different times, times when standing idly by is unconscionable and when getting involved has very real consequences you have to be prepared to accept.

I accept. I’m scared as hell, but I accept.

I don’t think things are going to be ok. I honestly don’t. I would love to be proven wrong. But every fact I can find points toward things being extremely not ok. Faced with that, I can think of nothing to do but fight back and I can think of nothing more shameful than burying my head completely. We all have different strengths and different tolerances. But none of us have zero value, none of us have nothing to give.

I fell asleep with a headache last night, tossed and turned and napped, and woke up to cry. My body hurts everywhere. I don’t know where I’ll find the energy or the strength, but there have been so many before me – stronger, braver, smarter, more resilient – who have found the energy and strength for more for longer. So I’ll dig it out of somewhere too. It feels like the very least I can do.

I’m sorry I wasn’t here sooner, all in like this. I should have been. Rallies for Planned Parenthood and fundraisers for queer organizations and arguing with my relatives wasn’t enough. I failed. I’m sorry and I’m here now. And one last time for the nosebleeds:

I DO NOT REGRET FIGHTING NAZIS.

You can tattoo that on my fucking forehead when I’m gone. But then please make me a tree or something because funerals are stupid.

Thursday Recommendation: Uncle Tom’s Cabin

I missed my posts the past two days because I was sick. I’m not actually going to link to this book because I don’t think anyone should pay for it. Find it in a library if you can.


Stay with me on this one.

If you have only heard about this book, you likely think it’s a stirring anti-slavery manifesto. If you have read the actual book, you understand it’s something quite different.

Written by an abolitionist, the book claims to care about the lives and fates of slaves in the American south before the Civil War. Yet it does so by infantilizing them, treating them like children and slavery like a system that is in place for their own good. They can’t take care of themselves. If only they had a good master (the book demonstrates several such “good” slave masters who are adored – by their FUCKING SLAVES) then they might have perfectly wonderful lives serving white people.

It’s not the book you’re expecting from an abolitionist, in other words.

But I think that’s why it’s important to read it, if you have access to it (and the stomach for it). Because these kinds of ideas still exist. This book basically encompasses the entire attitude of “I’m not racist, but…”

It is difficult to get through, for sure, but if you can, I think it’s an illuminating perspective, particularly if you are a white American. Today, those sorts of “I’m not racist, but…” attitudes are sometimes so quiet and so sneaky that we can’t even see or hear them. Here they are in such a bold, loud form that most modern people are left shocked that Stowe considered herself a person fighting for the freedom and rights of black people.

The book makes me wonder if someday people will look back at this time period and wonder how we allowed such brazenly racist shit to be deemed totally ok, not that bad, made up, exaggerated or deserving of a “chance.”