Wednesday, February 28, 2018

FLABBERGASTED by the #Metoo movement

Maybe it’s because I grew up on the mean streets of Brooklyn or that I have been dodging molesters since I could walk, but I just don't understand the reaction of many women to sexual harassment. The shock and surprise surprises me.

For me, when I meet a guy I think "potential rapist," and he has to work from there to convince me that he is a human worth talking to (unfortunately, many don't). With statistics telling us that one out of six women has been raped, how can any sane women who wants to stay that way trust a man they do not know? 

Why are we shocked when a woman says a guy did something inappropriate? Yes, many men do not-- hopefully they are our family members and our friends--but strange men are strange men, and we should not give them the respect of believing they are decent human beings these days until they prove they are.

Believing a man is guilty before being innocent might save us some grief. A suit, money and power on a man may be attractive, but they do not mean he is a gentleman and may mean he feels comfortable enough with his wealth and power to do anything he would like to a woman. 

How is this a face to trust?
We live in a time when men call women "hos," "bitches," and "cunts." Women's bodies are draped in ads everywhere in sexual positions to reinforce the idea that we are walking vaginas there for men's usage, not people with feelings and needs and brains. We are hardly depicted as sisters, daughters or friends.

Our whole culture tells men to be aggressive, never to take no for an answer, to go after what they want with both hands. This is the opposite of what women need to feel safe. We need men with self-control, but our culture is telling them "more, more, more," "don't stop," "'no' doesn't really mean 'no', it means you haven't tried hard enough yet."  This doesn’t just apply to women but to things like pursuing success or a promotion.

This how we imagine the beginnings of  male/female relations
My solution? I don't know (maybe... always have a recording device on you?). My only piece of advice is never let a strange man surprise you. For me, when a man does something inappropriate I am not surprised. When I was a girl, I used to be surprised. I used to freeze. So much self-doubt crap went through my head. Can I take him? Will anyone believe me if I scream? What if he blames me? What if he says I wanted it? What if he tells people and I lose my job? Maybe I'm overeacting... Blah Blah Blah. By the time I could react he'd already groped me and left. Now, I'm not surprised. I know now that my self-respect is more important than anything because I have to sleep with me after him, and I am not going to have regrets, not going to have nightmares about him for the rest of my life, or change my hair, or gain weight, or live in fear.  That is why I always respond. I try never to get stuck like a deer in the headlights. I always move. I act in whatever way I feel is appropriate. I have an escape plan. I laugh it off, I move his hand, I say 'no'! and speak up, I scream, I lie, I punch or kick. Recently I only look him in the eye and let him know he has messed with the wrong woman. Then I rise, like Maya Angelou said we should, and leave. I suggest we all learn how to rise.

If you think this is about blaming the victim, that's in your brain and has nothing to do with what I wrote. I know we all get victimized. That is life. It’s naive to believe that we’re getting out of this world without some scars. To fall down is not avoidable, to not learn from falling down is. 

Share and help arm another woman if you agree.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thanks again to all who voted! #Read my #interview in the #Penmenreview and the other winners too! …

Thanks to all of you who voted for my short story "The Buffalo," which won the first place prize in the Penmen Review's Fall Fiction Competition. #Read about it here

Thursday, November 16, 2017

My story is a finalist in the Penmen Review. Please read The Buffalo and vote for it here.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Why is it that people believe God needs so much protecting?

Is He a little tiny infant made of butter?

Will he disappear like Tinkerbell if we don't believe in Him?

Shouldn't an all-powerful deity be that: "an all-powerful deity" able to defend Himself if He feels a need? If He doesn't punish anyone then shouldn't that be a statement that He does not care, not a message to people to kill on His behalf? The world would be a lot saner and peaceful if we trusted God to take care of Himself and protect His own ego, instead of doing what we "think" He wants us to do. If God really cared about the stuff we care about wouldn't people be dropping dead or exploding all over the streets? Instead, God lets people live even though we think they are sinning.

Why? you ask.

Maybe because He has a greater plan for them than our tiny, little, short-lived, angry brains can fathom. So, the next time you get so angry or think you hear Him urging you to rage at another human being He has not seen fit to either hurt, kill or make miserable, instead of acting out for Him, maybe realize that the only one who is angry is you.

The next time you start spewing like a rage monster about how this person or that person is offending God by doing or saying this or that and should be punished remember 1 John 4:8: 

"Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

And ask yourself (in any moment of hate or anger) do you really "know" God?

Share and like if you agree. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Amazon and KDP Ad selection is Sexist.

Recently, I ran an ad for my book. It went pretty well, but I wanted to tweak it so I made a couple of others. They were approved. Finally, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was doing, I crafted my ultimate ad and it was rejected because one of the reviewers thought the image was inappropriate.  I looked at what was running in the ads and all I saw was half naked men in sexual positions, but because my ad had a woman who was naked but not showing anything the Indian reviewers rejected it.
Here is my cover:

Here are the covers they accepted:

Here is the example of a cover they will not accept because a breast is showing:

So, because one male Indian reviewer is evidently applying the standards of his culture to my book, it has been  targeted. I am writing this because I cannot seem to get around this guy/girl even when another person allows my ad, he comes back and rejects it again. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"Smart, Seductive and Completely Enthralling" Paranormal Romance!

One day only Give away!  24 hrs!  starting at June 21   at 4:30pm.   Nine ebooks!

Liked Twilight  or  A Shade of Vampire  but wished it was multicultural and/or a bit smarter? Then read The Innocent .

Monday, April 18, 2016

I have never understood Shakespeare's "Othello."

I have enjoyed reading Shakespeare since I was a child. In high school, I nerdily carried around a notebook covered in his quotes from Macbeth and volunteered to do the "To be or not to be" speech for a class.  Yet, I have never quite forgiven him for writing Othello.  From the first time I saw it, it has made a cold chill run down my spine. When I have thought of it, a nameless terror has seized me. Even when I saw it being acted out on "Cheers,"
 I could not get past the feeling of horror that gripped me even though it was supposed to be funny. I have heard many discussions about the how one is supposed to feel ambiguously about Othello, to be at once empathetic and repulsed, but I have never been captivated by his captivation with Iago or his descent to madness. I have read many scholars discussing the idea that everyone has a jealous killer in them, and it is in facing that part of us that we begin to understand and empathize with Othello.

Jealousy, the green-eyed monster
As a woman who has suffered abuse, I can only sit with my mouth open at this tragedy.  I understand that for thousands of years men have considered women as chattel and possessions that they could dispose of as they liked. I know that there are still men today who consider their wives as chattel and property and not human beings. I consider that Othello is one of that ilk. His color does not matter to me. To me, he is like most men physically. Most men are capable of overpowering the women they marry. It is understood that most women are physically weaker than their partners. That is where trust comes in and that is what is being betrayed so thoroughly in this story and why it creeps me out so.

Every time anywhere a woman lies down with a man, she is trusting him. It is an implicit thing that is not said and that a lot of men ignore or think a ridiculous old-fashioned idea, but it is the truth.  A female must trust a male to have sex with him; whether she should is another idea all together. But when the big man lies on top of his wife in their bed and strangles her, it is done in a parody of the marriage agreement. Instead of the position giving joy and pleasure, it is mimicked to perpetuate murder. It is used to betray. Perhaps that is the idea of the duality of the bedroom and relationships between men and women. It is that betrayal of that unsaid and implicit trust that is so disturbing and makes a woman feel so vulnerable and a man feel so monstrous when seeing Othello.

I have also never quite bought the idea that Othello killed Desdemona because he was jealous. Yes, jealousy can drive men mad, and people have shot each other for cheating, but Othello had only the word of Iago that his wife was unfaithful. He believed the idea so quickly, yet his wife had hardly been out of his sight, so why believe it so soon? It had to be more than jealousy, so then what? What was the fulcrum that moved Othello. I came across an article"'Yet That's Not Much': Age Differences in Othello" that besides discussing race and gender says one should look at age in the play too. So let us look. We have a May-December romance here. Othello is as old as his wife's father. By that time, there many comedies about May-December romances. They were seen as unseemly and ridiculous. Shakespeare discussed the idea of a young girl being married to an older suitor in Romeo and Juliet. We all know how foolish Paris was. Now, put twenty more years on him.

We have an older man with a hot young girl, but they did not have Viagra in those days. So, would Othello be having doubts about satisfying his young, frisky girl? Would he be feeling insecure about his prowess with her?  And speaking of insecure, we know he was not of high status birth that he worked himself up the ranks. He had just settled into a good social position and now has a wife fitting of it. Othello is in a good place unless you consider how humiliating it would be if his young wife cheated on him. Othello is a triple loser if she is unfaithful. He is a foolish old goat cuckold who loses face in public and is his humiliated socially by her betrayal. Maybe a man who was younger, of good family and wealthy could stand that, but someone from the streets like Othello, where one's status is so hard won, could not take this blow. He has gambled his status on this girl, and he thinks he has lost.

Now, everyone says that Iago knows Othello so well he can push all his buttons, but nobody asks how a Venetian guy could understand Othello, a Moor? They are from two totally different cultures or are they? They are both men at the bottom of the social ladder trying to climb up. Only Othello has climbed past Iago and left him in the dirt though he is a foreigner. We all know how some people hate to see anyone that is different doing better than them. They think that what that person accomplished should be theirs. Iago seems no different. Iago knows Othello because they are the same guy, both social climbers with the same ambitions and the same insecurities.

Iago's wife says that she has cheated on her husband but only because he has taught her how. Here is another similarity. Iago knows what it is to be a cuckold, who knows jealousy, and it is that knowledge that he uses against Othello. Everyone has two forces in them, the one that pulls us up and into the light, which would be embodied by Desdemona in this case, and the force that represents the worst in us or our fears that pull us down, our Iago. Othello listens to Iago because he is the personification of his inner Shadow. Othello is a play about the destiny of a man's soul caught between heaven and hell. Desdemona can forgive Othello's unforgivable betrayal because she is not a woman like Iago's wife (who cheats on him ouu of revenge) but an ideal. She is young love, innocent, sweet and unfaltering, made flesh.

It has been because of this that for may years I have found it hard not to hate Othello and to call him unworthy and less of a human being. Desdemona had to defy forces like Iago, social condemnation, her father's displeasure, racist assumptions and cultural constructs and expectations, and she surmounted them. She did into listen when she was told not to marry such an "old black goat." She rose above it all. Othello's love was never tested until Iago came along, and he fails utterly. Is this the difference between young love and old love?  Young love is unfaltering while old love is flawed and cynical and suspicious?

 Life must have taught Othello not to trust love, and this is where I can empathize with him finally. We all have our fears that love is fleeting, that we cannot hold it, that it is not true. When we fight to get something we always wonder was it worth it? Is the price I paid fair or was I cheated? Can my happiness be real? Can I deserve this?  Othello got his happiness, but he could not keep it because he could not trust it. Maybe he had a tragic life, which he implies when he speaks of himself, or perhaps he had many losses that taught him not to trust happiness. Many of us, including me, have out of fear, sabotaged our own happiness with worry and distrust. People who have had hard lives don't trust joy. They know it is fleeting, and sometimes they destroy it only because they believe it will not last. Perhaps there is the idea that if we destroy it, then at least we control its destruction, at least it is not taken from us. We will get rid of our happiness ourselves and  pretend we have control.

Othello is an Icarus who tears apart his own wings because he believes he will fall anyway.  He listens to Iago, because as a mature man he knows that happiness does not always last. Once again we come back to the idea of trust and faith. It is his lack of it that destroys him in the end as it destroys many of us.

I have hated Othello, feared him, seen him as the worst of men, but in reality he is just like all of us: afraid of our own happiness and willing to self-sabotage to make our own sad worldview true. Othello is not a Moor or a black man; he is not an old man or a young man or any man of any type. He is just us all at our darkest and saddest, when we have lost faith in hope, trust and goodness, and that is the real tragedy of the play.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Hero: A Woman, a Myth but not a Guy.

Hero is the name of a young woman.

 Hero has her own myth. She was purportedly the priestess of Aphrodite, which is interesting because her name has more to do with the Great Goddess Hera, and names have symbolic meaning.|One can hypothesize that this myth once belonged to Hera and only later was attributed to Aphrodite or that Aphrodite was once one of the many faces of Hera, the Great Goddess, The Great Goddess had three faces: youth, matron and crone. Aphrodite is somewhere between youth and matron, sexual but not pregnant or doing all she can to get pregnant but not yet there. Lastly, one may suggest that Hero's mom liked the name, except that it was common for priestesses to take a new name when going into service like nuns do today.

 The myth is even stranger than the names imply,  Hero stays in a tower by the sea. We can hear the beginnings of fairy tales like Rapunzel and other captured maiden stories or can we? Like Rapunzel, Hero has a lover, here named Leander, who must cross the sea to be with her in her secluded location. Nightly, he swims out to her. She keeps a lit lantern out for him. It must have been pretty big to be seen a mile away. That is the distance Leander had to swim across the Hellespont. These lovely meetings went on all summer.

It is not until winter storms come that there is trouble in paradise. One terrible night, the sea is whipped by storms and Leander is beaten by the once docile waves. A cruel wind blows out Hero's torch. Leander is either overcome by the current or lost in the darkness. His body is found the next day.

There are a lot of unanswered questions in this myth. My husband asked," Why didn't he just use a boat?" Yeah. Why didn't he? That s a great question. I asked why Hero was sitting alone by the sea? Where was everybody else all night long? And there are a lot more weird little details in this myth that make you not want to take it at face value.

So, let's pick it apart. Now, we know Aphrodite is associated with the sea, water, and fecundity. Moisture and women, or their vaginas, always go together in symbolism. Still, Hero seems quite alone to be a Priestess; there is not even Poseidon who drowned Leander. It is empty of sisters, townspeople and even friends.

Another important unexplained detail is that Leander is from Abydos, a town in Asia Minor, while Hero is from Greece. Now those two regions had been enemies for a while--think Trojan War. Abydos is listed as an ally of Troy in The Iliad. Later, it would be the launching point for the Persian Xerxes in his invasion of Greece, and it would be celebrated by the historian Polybius for resisting Philip of Macedon (Alexander the Great's father). So, here we have a young girl, a priestess, in a tower that overlooks the sea. She has a lantern in the window. She sounds like she is a part of a modern day lighthouse. She keeps the light or holy flame going to keep ships and things safe for passage.

hero3115detailSo what is she watching for? Hero might be there to see if enemy ships were coming across; we don't know if there was animosity between Europe and Asia at the time, but it is interesting that she is overlooking the body of water between what might be enemy countries.  If there was even a bit of tension between these peoples that would add to the proto-Romeo-and-Juliet element in the story. Shakespeare was aware of  the story and mentions it in "Two Gentlemen of Verona."  Two lovers from opposite sides of the Hellespont, from two different continents and from two different peoples fall in love. He must swim under cover of night to be with his beloved in a "love conquers all" kind of thing. This may be how it originally began, or not.  It  sounds good though.

We can presuppose that Hero is the guardian or protector of the light at the lighthouse/temple. She  has a lot of people's lives in her hands. Tending the flame was most likely an all-important task. Hero was important. Her ministering the flame may have saved may lives. We know that on stormy nights the light in a lighthouse is all that may stand between a sailor and certain death. The tragedy then is that the storm blows out the eternal flame in the lighthouse, which could have also been a shrine or temple in old days that served as a place of worship and and light for ships.

Image result for lighthouseWhen then light goes out in a storm, that is a catastrophe. Many people, not just Leander, may have died.  He may have been one among many, but then the story would lose its focus and theme. Distilling it down to a pair of star-crossed lovers makes it more powerful and captivating. It could also help remind people when it is safe to cross the Hellespont (not in winter!). It could be warning tale for foolish young lover or seamen who want to cross. 

The little details that remain from the story are so enticing and interesting, one always wants to dig deeper and know more. While many have said that the word Hero today comes from the Ancient Greek word ἥρως, meaning "protector" or "warrior" and has nothing to do with Hero from the myth, I posit that it seems Hero was a guardian of the lighthouse or a temple dedicated to an eternal flame and was doing just what her named implied, protecting sailors from harm at sea.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Who were the Thanksgiving Indians?

Though very few people have ever heard of the Wampanoag Tribe, they are the Native people who were living near Plymouth rock and  welcomed the Pilgrims and fed them a nice meal some four hundred years ago.  Those are my people. So, my great-grandmother told me when I was five and sat in her kitchen with my hands folded on her neat white and red checkered table cloth.  When I had problems pronouncing the name (I had a lisp), she simply said, "We are the Thanksgiving Indians." She also told me we were the people of the Sun, of the East.  She went on to say that many of our people died after the coming of the Europeans.  Actually, fifty-thousand died of plague.  What disease did not finish off, King Philip's War did.  That was the point when the People of the Wampanoag Confederacy had enough of the encroaching foreigners and decided to fight back.  They were slaughtered to the man.

If you think I want you to spit out the turkey you have so happily ingested on this Holiday in the name of my fallen ancestors,  that's okay, you don't have to.  It is true for many years, even as a little one, I harbored deep rage at the idea that my relatives fed and nurtured their would-be murderers and that their kindness came back to bite them.  I thought that if they had just let them starve to death, then they might have gone away.  Maybe my people would still have their land and be at peace. Perhaps all the Africans that were needed to make this land great and habitable would not have been dragged from home and family and brought here to be worked to death, but I am not a little girl anymore.  I know now that even if the Wamponoag  who had walked out of those woods with food in arm, had turned on the Pilgrims on that day instead of feeding them, the Europeans would have sent another group and another group.  Europe had a lot of people to get rid of and eventually one group would have made a foothold. It is interesting though that a group of people fleeing persecution in Europe would turn around and persecute others in the same vicious manner and for the same reason of difference. It seems as if they only wanted tolerance for themselves and not everyone, which is selfish, ignorant and brutal. It makes you think they deserved to suffer and should have suffered more until they learned kindness and generosity.

My Ancestors

One could be angry at such people, but being angry does nothing but make the angry person miserable. It does not hurt the offender in any way especially since the Pilgrims died long ago. Being angry would only make my life worse. So, instead of being angry, now I think about the humanity of my ancestors. I know the way European-Americans describe Native people as being savage, but so are most European-Americans when faced with an intruder in their home. That is why we have guns and "a stand your ground rule." Natives have also been described as foolish, easily tricked and manipulated, but I have found that most good people are easily tricked when they have no deceit in them.  I am glad that when my ancestors were faced with the sight of people starving to death in the snow, they bravely put aside their prejudices and offered these other human beings sustenance.  They looked beyond the difference in skin color, in culture, and saw simply other hungry human beings.  I would not for the world that they had done differently. Yes, even though they died by the thousands because of their kindness. I was taught to believe in reincarnation. The soul does not die. My people either went on to another plane of existence because of their goodness (or they were reborn elsewhere We need more good people in this country.)

 I would rather be related to such kind, openhearted people than butchers who could not see the humanity in another person because of the color of their skin and felt justified in treating them inhumanly.  I would have nothing to be proud of if the Wamponoag had sat in fear of the future and allowed other people to starve. Their actions were not foolish but showed a profound goodness that I can only aspire to.  It is true that I wish the racist Pilgrims had been worthy or capable of understanding this superior gift and that they had acted in kind.  I wish as a nation we were all capable of truly living up to the sacrifice of the moment and seeing beyond the skin to the soul within.  Thanksgiving  commemorates the moment when two peoples met and one rose above their fears of difference to help others in need.

On this Thanksgiving, I hope that each of us remembers the Wamponoag who were described by the Pilgrims  as an especially tall and handsome people, intelligent and kind.  Without their goodness, we all would not be here today.  I hope one day, this great nation can follow their example instead of the one of fear and hatred the Pilgrims brought with them from across the sea.  I hope one day we will be as brave, as kind, as  good and openhearted as the Wampanoag were. My ancestors would have adjured me to try and change the world with my goodness, yet not allow the darkness in the world to change me. On this day, as a Wampanoag descendant, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving as I know my ancestors would have wanted me to.

If you agree, then please share and like this message of forgiveness and peace and bring the Wampanoag and their kindness and bravery back into the story of Thanksgiving.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Race, Class and the Watermelon Men of Brooklyn.

When I was a girl living in East New York, I remember summer time by the arrival of the Watermelon men. In my mind, they remind me of Christina Rossetti’s poem "The Goblin Market." They were magical men with fruit in their hands ready to sell. They came from far away in a semi-truck. They were dark-skinned, almost burned black, even when it was not that hot in Brooklyn. They seemed to come from some far off secret place that grew watermelons like I had never seen.

Where we lived there was only the A&P or Key Food stores. In our neighborhood, the fruit was not that good. The white owners trucked in the worst of the worst produce. It stank or was pale and wilted. My mother never shopped there. She always went to the Jewish neighborhood or a whiter one. There they had better everything, even nicer watermelons. Though white people say it is a black thing, watermelons disappear in their stores just as fast if not faster than in black neighborhoods. When I was young, I always knew everything was better in white neighborhoods except for those watermelons.

They were big, as long as my arm and green with big dirty yellow spots. The men would come and park on a Brooklyn street near a bus stop. My mother and I would get off and there they would be. They looked tall to me standing in the back of their truck. They had a little table to show their wares. Sometimes if we were lucky, they would cut a watermelon right in front of us. The man was thin, sinewy, not handsome but kind of in the way that dirt is beautiful and good. His eyes were bright and sharp from working hard. He wore a tight t-shirt sometimes striped. He would raise a dark hand with that big old machete in it and go thunk, and the watermelon would fall open, split open all red. Then came the smell. The smell you could follow all the way back to Africa. It was that good, that deep, that sweet. You could smell the hands and the pockets that had carried watermelon seeds from their home all the way here past a great ocean, past great cruelty and chains.  The little back seeds filled with hope, the past, and taste.

My mother would yell, "Which one is good?"
The man yelled back, "They’re all good, mam!"
Then came the call, the magic call.

"Watermellllllllllons! Watermelllllllonen!" he yelled, leaning out from the back of the truck hand to his mouth, hanging by one arm.  It boomed across city traffic and sidewalks, and crowds and made them all go away. People would look up from whatever they were doing, whatever hardships and terrors and sadness and come get them some sweet, sweet watermelon.

My mother sometimes had a wagon, sometimes not. If not, we took turns carrying that huge thing like it was a baby cradled in our arm as we walked back home. When we entered the house. we told anyone who was there what we had. The word ‘watermelon’ would fill the house like some ghost, and my grandmother would smile her toothless smile.

Then we would cut it, not because we wanted to ruin its beautiful green skin or hurry summer along, but because it demanded to be cut. It would fall open on the table like a woman spreading her thighs. Then the smell would fill the house. It would cling in the refrigerator for weeks. Whenever you opened it, you knew it was watermelon time.

We would eat the crisp soft flesh, and it was like honey on the tongue. You could eat it down to the rind. It was that sweet, that good.  It brought laughter with it. It brought out tables and napkins. It made us sit in the backyard together and talk. It made my grandma say "Umh-umh-umh that's good." It was a magic fruit filled with good times. There would be only one of those in the summer. The watermelon man's truck always emptied quickly.  It was always gone too soon.

But when he came, I didn't live in some crime-ridden neighborhood, disadvantaged, beleaguered, and trodden down by racism, favoritism and sadness. No. I was someplace special, someplace where I got something good for being who I was, for living where I did.