Right now I’m preparing to teach a new course called “Writing the Self” at Seattle University where I’ll be a visiting writer next winter. We’ll be examining the autobiographical impulse in multiple literary genres, including graphic novels. I read Fun Home several years ago and loved it, but I was curious about Bechdel’s earlier work, which led me to Dykes to Watch Out For. I thought I’d just skim a few pages of this hefty collection, but I ended up falling in love with the progressive community it brings to life as well as the individual characters— Sparrow, Ginger, Mo, Sydney, Clarice, Toni, Lois, and the rest of the gang. The collection follows their lives for more than two decades and ends up offering a heap of insights into the way women and their relationships evolve as they move deeply into middle age.
The book’s commentary on the George W. Bush era will remind readers quite a bit of our current political landscape. In fact, Bechdel found herself returning to this strip in November 2016 after an 8-year hiatus, saying, “Since I stopped drawing Dykes to Watch Out For at the tail end of the Bush administration, people have asked me many times if I thought about my characters, and if so, what they were up to. And I would have to be honest. No, I didn’t think about them, and I had no idea what they were doing.But last week they all started flooding back.”
You can read more about the strip here.
Fat Is a Feminist Issue.
This book fell into my hands the moment I needed it the most. I was nineteen years old and I’d just gained thirty pounds. Thirty pounds that I didn’t understand, that confounded me. Thirty pounds that I believed betrayed me.
I didn’t initially want to read the book because it had the words “fat” and “feminist” in the title. Even though I was both “fat” and “feminist,” I was also afraid of being those things. But within the first few pages of the book, my trepidation melted away and was supplanted by a deeply felt reassurance that my gained pounds had meaning. The hatred with which I viewed my body was not my own. I had been taught it, a lesson which continued every day I breathed air in a culture where the female physical ideal was something my body didn’t want to be.
Nowadays, I find that I relive the part of my life that corresponds with my daughters’ ages. Right now they are both college age and the feelings from those years–particularly feelings about my body have been flooding back. I’ve started reading about a new generation of women who are fighting back hard on the body image front, which inspired me to go back to Fat Is a Feminist Issue and reread it to see if its arguments still hold. They do. Hell, yes, they still hold. I can see now just how much ground this book broke. As I’ve been rereading it, I’ve been wondering which passages must have jumped out at me at nineteen.
I’m guessing that I must’ve underlined this one: “What is crucial….is something often overlooked or misunderstood, both by compulsive eaters themselves and by those who try to help them. This is the idea that compulsive eating is linked to a desire to get fat.”
I’ve always loved the essay, but I’ve been particularly enraptured with the capabilities of this genre lately as I’ve been teaching some magnificent personal essays. Here are a few essays I am newly in love with (or falling in love with all over again): “What I Pledge Alegiance To” by Kiese Laymon, “Apocalypse Logic” by Elissa Washuta, “A Kingdom Like No Other” by Natalie Singer (Hawthorne Books will be releasing Singer’s memoir, California Calling, in March 2018), and “The Exploded Star,” the first chapter of Mandy Len Catron’s How to Fall in Love With Anyone.
Frozen strawberries, frozen mango, chunks of fresh pineapple, Fage Greek yogurt = Here comes summer!
Like many self-employed, I’m plagued by two competing self-assessments; I’m either a lazy or a workaholic. I realized a few weeks ago that I had no sense of how much I actually work. I decided to keep track. Of course, once we start tracking something, it begins to change (Sometimes I’ll work a little longer so the log looks better), but the tracking has helped me to see that in reality I work a fairly average number of hours. I’m neither sloth nor die-hard. Just a regular person, it turns out.
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