WW Wednesday: Eve Ensler

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  In honor of those who are dealing with the effects of domestic/sexual assault, and to call attention to the multi-faceted issue of gender-based violence, today’s WW is poet, playwright, and activist, Eve Ensler.

EVE ENSLER

Screenshot 2017-10-18 at 11.13.35 AMEve Ensler was born in Scarsdale, New York in 1953.  As is more common that one would expect, her childhood and young womanhood were filled with domestic abuse. She struggled to overcome the resulting trauma, which manifested through drug addiction and a number of unhealthy relationships.  In the midst of getting clean, she also worked to achieve self-love as a woman.  She talked to other women about their experiences. Before she knew it, she had compiled multiple interviews, profiles, and poems to create the Tony award-winning play: The Vagina Monologues.

Screenshot 2017-10-18 at 12.06.41 PM

“Probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade.”

– The New York Times

Ensler began performing the piece in 1994 and in doing so she began a longlasting and controversial call to action.  Today, The Vagina Monologues is performed in over 140 countries and has been translated into over 48 languages.  In 2011, she wrote a similar piece, I am an Emotional Creature, which was targeted to and captured the experiences of young women.  She has written several other plays, books, and articles over the years which call attention gender-based violence.

 

Ensler became completely devoted to ending global violence against women and girls.  Shortly after The Vagina Monologues performances began, she started a global activist movement through V-Day.  The organization has raised over $100 million and works to educate people worldwide on how to end gender-based violence.  Thus far, V-Day has led PSA campaigns to fund over 13,000 community programs, safe houses and shelters in Africa and the Middle East. (Check out One Billion Rising and City of Joy.)

This coming January, the Manhattan Theatre Club is presenting the New York premiere In the Body of the World, which is based on Ensler’s critically acclaimed memoir of the same name.  In this short piece, Ensler shares her experience working in the Congo and the connections she felt to her own illnesses through life.

For more information on Eve Ensler, check out her website.

 

 

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REVIEW: Women in Sports, Rachel Ignotofsky

 

Do you know many women in sports?  How many professional women’s sports teams can you mention off the top of your head?  Unless you are a sports fanatic, I am guessing you would be struggling to name more than one or two.  In fact, I’ll admit I knew very little about the relationship between women and sports until opening my copy of Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win, by Rachel Ignotofsky.  

 

This book is fabulous.  I gladly award Ignotofsky a 5-star review!  Not only does she succinctly compose the biographies of 50 athletes, she also includes effortless and colorfully animated illustrations of each woman demonstrating her craft.  These women have proved sheer dedication to the world of athletics.  For example,  Ignotofsky highlights women who fought for the advancement of women in athletics by winning Olympic medals and fighting for equal opportunities and wages.  She provides a timeline of women’s involvement in professional sports (8-9) which notes outstanding athletes like Althea Gibson (the first black tennis player to compete at U.S. Nationals), important legislation such as Title IX (a 1972 amendment against gender discrimination) and the development of women’s sports organizations such as the WNBA).

 

Ignotofsky also illustrates a breakdown of muscle anatomy and influential women’s sports teams (Did you know, 20 years before Title IX was passed, the TSU Tigerbelles trained 40 track runners who went on to become Olympians?)  Perhaps most importantly, Ignotofsky includes a concise section regarding the gap in pay and disparate television coverage between women and men’s professional sports.  In basketball alone, the minimum salary in 2015 for man was still $415,593 more than the maximum salary a woman in the same field.

 

The inequality wasn’t necessarily a discovery or revelation for me.  People are more apt to watch the NBA than the WNBA due to advertising and out of habit.  However, we need to change things up.  In 2017 there are countless outlets through which to view and discuss sports.  I see no reason as to why we cannot redirect the conversation toward women’s professional sports and female athletes as a whole.  The future of sports could be a more equal playing field as a result.  This is why I think every young person (woman or not, sports-oriented or not) should add Women in Sports to their bookshelves.  

 

Rachel Ignotofsky

Author Rachel Ignotofsky is primarily an illustrator and designer from Los Angeles, California, but she is also a New York Times best-selling author (Check out her other books: Women in Science, published in 2016).  She graduated from the Tyler School of Arts in 2011 with a degree in Graphic Design.  Her work has been featured in media outlets such as Babble and The Huffington Post.  She is an inspiration, much like the women about whom she researches and writes; she is her own boss and follows her passion spreading scientific literacy and feminism through illustration. Click here for her website.

 

 

FTC disclaimer: I received this book for Blogging for Books for the purposes of this review.

Ignotofsky, Rachel. Women in Sports. Ten Speed Press: New York. 2017. Print.

 

 

POMEGRANATE

POMEGRANATE

 

When I found her,

she was a shredded pansy petal,

died indigo

trapped against damp pant-suits, stiff collars & lash lines smeared with distracted tenderness.

 

When I found her,

she was curled tight to the chipped linoleum.

Her palms clutched her kidneys

& the sharp edge of sympathetic Hallmarks slapped with mass-produced emotion:

 

sorry for your loss…

thinking of you…

heartfelt feelings…

 

When I found her,

She sniffled & choked twice on a cough that I pretended not to hear.

This woman leaked through her eyelids. 

I squinted through mine from the fluorescents in the funeral home bathroom.

 

When I found her,

I crouched to hand her one last cut of cardstock.

It was a leftover scrap from the photo collage they made together last winter

when he was still here.

 

The torn edges of the paper scraped her fingertips

as she saw the large scrawl in pomegranate:

I miss him too, mommy.

WW Wednesday: Bobbie Rosenfeld

BOBBIE ROSENFELD

  • Bobbie Rosenfeld
    Bobbie Rosenfeld posing with her trophies.

    Fanny ‘Bobbie’ Rosenfeld was born in 1904 in Russia but grew up in Canada playing softball, tennis and ice hockey.

  • She set national records for running long jump, discus, and standing broad jump during the Olympic Trials.
  • In 1924, she won the Toronto Ladies Grass Court Tennis Championship.
  • Despite her experience with painful arthritis, she returned to playing softball and ice hockey.
  • By 1933, she had to retire from playing sports completely, so she became a sports writer with Toronto newspaper Globe & Mail.  In her “Sports Reel” column, she advocated for women’s athletics.
  • The Bobbie Rosenfeld Award is given to the best Canadian female athlete of the year.
  • Click here to learn more about Bobbie Rosenfeld

 

 

Untitled

SOURCE:

Ignotofsky, Rachel. Women in Sports. Ten Speed Press: New York. 2017. Print.

 

 

Review: Solaris Seethes, Janet McNulty

I like how McNulty uses Solaris to capture artificial intelligence in a positive light. (I am a little afraid of how AI will affect our society in the future, but if our machines are going to be as sarcastic as Solaris, I may grow to like them!)

If you are looking for an action-packed fantasy series, then Solaris Seethes (Solaris Saga Book 1) is the book for you. Author Janet McNulty writes for the adventurous spirit by incorporating many popular ingredients of science fiction and fantasy such as time travel, artificial intelligence, and alien/human collaboration toward a common goal. This book is listed as young adult fiction, space opera and fantasy, but I would like to add a small warning in that the text briefly references sexual violence.

Rynah is devastated as she witnesses the destruction of her home planet, Lanyr. Amidst the dust crashing walls, she is surprised to see the attack is led by none other than her fiance, Klanor. Rynah can’t believe her eyes: Klanor had just proposed that morning! He begins to reveal his plan for control over the universe as he steals a powerful crystal from Lanyr’s high-security lab. As the dust settles, Rynah takes refuge in what looks to be a brand new spaceship. She doesn’t realize she’s found Solaris, her grandfather’s artificially intelligent spaceship.

Though she is determined to unhinge her former fiance’s plans for ultimate power, Rynah realizes she can’t do it alone. Solaris springs to life with a plan. She helps Rynah assemble a team of heroes from across Earth’s history: Alfric the Viking warrior, Solon the philosopher, Tom the inventor and Brie the tender-hearted. These strangers are gifted in their own way but are not used to working with others. Rynah has an especially hard time dealing with the pressures of leading a team. But despite her headstrong attitude, the group soon become somewhat of a family. They travel to diverse planets by way of Solaris in order to put a stop to Klanor’s ambitions for world domination.

Book 1 introduces an extensive quest among intergalactic heroes. Though a moderately short read, the book is very detailed. McNulty achieves this through great descriptive imagery when she writes: “[Rynah’] boots clopped against the stone floor as she raced for the exit, hoping to escape the rage her planet flung at her” (18) and “Water spouted from a pipe protruding from the blistered ground…” (93).

McNulty creates detail by treating the A.I. spaceship, Solaris, as an active character of the plot as well as an expository plot tool. For example, Solaris stands in as a parental figure and scolds Rynah for disrespecting her: “Don’t you dare talk to me like that, you ungrateful rugrat. Marlow, your grandfather, created me while you were still playing with toys. Now I want you to apologize” (38). In the same virtual “breath,” she is able to share her extensive knowledge base, which serves as a link between the past, present, and future: “A screen in Rynah’s room flashed to life as images swept across it and two giant planets soared by…Rynah remembered the stories about how her people had wandered the universe once before settling in the Lanyran Sector. Tales told of how they had chanced upon a blue planet–uninteresting at best and overrun by savage beasts–and used it as a place to dispose of their garbage, conduct repairs, or what some might call, a pit stop (44). I like how McNulty uses Solaris to capture artificial intelligence in a positive light. (I am a little afraid of how A.I. will affect our society in the future, but if our machines are going to be as sarcastic as Solaris, I may grow to like them!)

The detailed descriptions in this book make for a great first installment in the Solaris Saga. However, there are a few grammar fixes I’ll suggest to further improve the text. The first issue I noticed was McNulty’s rampant use of parentheses. Sometimes, using parentheses made sense, but much of the time, they felt intrusive based on their placement within the sentence. For example when McNulty writes “clung to the cool (a sensation that surprised her) railing as she regained her balance” (95) the sentence is jerky. If she were to instead write “clung to the surprisingly cool railing as she regained her balance,” the sentence would be smoother and more succinct. Similar parenthetical dilemmas occur on page 321, 112, 242, and 448.

This observation leads to my next suggestion to break up large sections of descriptive text. As this is a young adult novel, sentences should be less complex than in the following excerpt from page 226: “Laughter spilled from the mess hall (a simple area with a long counter that lined one side with a hot plate, microwave oven, and polished, steel cabinets, and an aluminum table on the opposite side) amidst the clinking of forks as everyone gathered for supper, a meal consisting of rehydrated protein and vegetables—none of which tasted savory—and filtrated water.” There’s a lot of description here which can be drawn out a bit as to not lose any detail.

Considering McNulty’s gift for detailed storytelling, but also her grammatical choices, I rate this book 3 out of 4. The last small group of suggestions is regarding missing words and errors in word choice. I will conclude with the following table, which includes suggestions for improving phrasing/fluency (feel free to skip this and get to reading the book!):

Original Text Suggestion for Improvement
“…until a time when it could put back where it belonged” (12). “…until a time when it could be put back to where it belonged.”
“It was as though he had locked all of emotions away” (14). “It was a though he had locked all his emotions away.”  
“Every member of the Lunyra Movement have the same insignia tattooed on their neck” (83). “Every member of the Lunyra Movement had the same insignia tattooed on their neck.”
“racking” / “racked” (25, 440) “wracking” / “wracked”
“…leaving Klanor to stem in his anger as the fire erupted from his spacecraft” (116). “…leaving Klanor to stew in his anger as the fire erupted from his spacecraft”
“Then you have nothing for which to be ashamed of” (221). “Then you have nothing for which to be ashamed.”

McNulty, Janet. Solaris Seethes (Solaris Saga Book 1). MMP Publishing, young adult science fiction space opera & fantasy, 2014. Kindle file.

On Finding Comfort in Mid-Afternoon Autumn

ON FINDING COMFORT IN MID-AFTERNOON AUTUMN  

after Rachel McKibbins

 

“Alas, daughter, you have struck me down

& brought calamity upon me. (Judges 11:34-5)

 

The maple leaf I almost jam

between the impetuous stomps

of combats and this thirsty soil trail

is a cathedral window.

Her patchy glass is stained blood orange

harvest yellow & fresh cut green

from the center veins

to the ends of her crispy arms.

 

Her back is pressed against

a clear plastic pocket

to avoid breaking into crumbs

when I store her between careful pages-

 

Her elephant skin could sand the edges

of my birch bedside table.

Licked by the sun’s noon fire.

wrinkled and rough-

she has too felt the sting of oppressive winds.

 

I had blood in my hands.

so did he.

I had blood in my hands

dripping from my own face

my face.

blood in my hands-

 

so did he.

 

I couldn’t understand

how a man with hot cocoa eyes

& the origin of my own jawline

could find my blood there.

 

He wanted to know where I’d been.

so I told him, in hushed but

confident defiance…

“with boy [x] age [y].”

 

Review: Gone Girl

I was never one to read a psychological thriller.  Then… I read Gone Girl.

Nick and Amy Dunne are auspicious young writers who met, as many writers do, in New York City.  Nick came from a small town known as North Carthage, Missouri to make a name for himself in journalism.  Though born a city girl, Amy held similar aspirations.  Her parents had made a living writing children’s books featuring Amazing Amy, a character the “real” Amy has struggled to emulate.  The two writers are a perfect couple with the perfect life: until the recession starts to eliminate their job market.  What’s more, they learn Nick’s mother has been diagnosed with cancer.  It only makes sense to move back to Missouri.  In order to make ends meet, Nick decides to open a bar.  Amy contributes the remains of her savings to make this happen but is unable to find work herself.  They are about to celebrate their 5 year anniversary when Amy disappears.  Though Nick is the police’s prime suspect, his guilt cannot be confirmed.  In fact, it seems very few details regarding Amy’s disappearance can be confirmed. As various clues and alibis start to contradict each other.  The police struggle to build a coherent case.  The question remains: Where is Amy?  

 

Gone Girl is not necessarily a “new” release, as the original publishing date was in 2012 and the film adaptation was released in 2014, but I still feel obligated to review (and praise) Gillian Flynn for her work.  As I stated above, I was not typically drawn to her genre but then I was required to read Gone Girl for a critical reading course in college. I was totally sucked in and wrote as much about the book as possible.

 

I promptly bought Flynn’s other novels: Sharp Objects (2006) and Dark Places (2009) and was happy to find that Gillian Flynn is inventive in all her books.  She writes to achieve rumination rather than resolution and forces readers to challenge their comfortability with principal characters.  There are neither “heroes” nor light-hearted adventures.  To be crystal clear, Flynn writes for a mature audience.  

 

My favorite aspects of Gone Girl is Flynn’s use of dual and unreliable narration.  These two literary techniques aren’t always used together, but I do think they work together nicely to prove that multiple perspectives are integral to the plot of a successful thriller novel.  The point of view alternates between Nick and Amy Dunne, who recount events in a manner which protect their self-interests.  As a result, both narrators are unreliable and increasingly unlikeable.  When Amy disappears, Nick is barely fazed. He withholds details regarding his alibi for the morning of Amy’s disappearance from secondary characters as well as from the reader. 

Amy is just as murky in her diary entries.  seems like a caricature of a woman when she writes in her diary.  Her stories from when she and Nick met in NYC  read like a film script. I didn’t know who to believe or when to take either character seriously (which was great, because I don’t want predictable characters in a thriller or mystery novel).  This unreliability caused me to start thinking about how secondary characters would tell their version of the “Nick and Amy” story.  For example, how did Amy’s parents interact with her on a daily basis?  Did they actually expect Amy to use the Amazing Amy series as a literal roadmap to success, or were they simply inspired to write after her mother was finally able to deliver their only daughter?

 

I also enjoyed how Flynn confronts gender stereotypes in this book while keeping the characters realistically problematic.  For example, Amy brings forth an interesting debate on gender expectations by expressing the pressures of being “Cool Girl.”  She explains, “I waited patiently— years— for the pendulum to swing the other way, for men to start reading Jane Austen, learn how to knit, pretend to love cosmos, organize scrapbook parties, and make out with each other while we leer. And then we’d say, Yeah, he’s a Cool Guy” (301).  The idea that women should be constantly agreeable while interacting with men is still prominent.  This is why we are still referred to as “bossy” instead of “authoritative” when we establish ourselves in positions of power.  We are expected to adapt to men’s tastes and to “calm down.” To exploit our sexuality. To tolerate inappropriate jokes when we know they’re offensive and unfunny.  

 

However, women are also taught to look for an unrealistic profile in men, and Amy exhibits this phenomenon.  Though she admits to struggling with gender expectations, she shames Nick for struggling with his identity:  “You are a man,” I say. “You are an average, lazy, boring, cowardly, woman-fearing man…The only time in your life you’ve ever liked yourself was pretending to be someone I might like” (529).  This moment is interesting, as she is chastising Nick for being passive, but also for performing according to her expectations.  Again, I must stress how this novel will make you think about character likeability and complexity.  

 

The only complaint I have about this novel is the very end because the story is uncharacteristically resolved in comparison to Flynn’s other books.  I can’t elaborate too much without including spoilers, but I do feel there would be more complications to the resolution when all character perspectives are considered.  This aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I give Flynn a 5-star rating and am eager to see her on the best-seller list again soon!

*CLICK HERE* for a free sample or to purchase Gone Girl on Amazon.com

Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl: A Novel. Crown, 2012. Kindle file.