Gwendolyn Brooks on “Life for my child…”

Life for my child is simple, and is good.

He knows his wish.  Yes, but that is not all.

Because I know mine too.

And we both want joy of undeep and unabiding things,

Like kicking over a chair or throwing blocks out of a window

Or tipping over an ice box pan

Or snatching down curtains or fingering an electric outlet

Or a journey or a friend or an illegal kiss.

No.  There is more to it than that.

It is that he has never been afraid.

Rather, he reaches out and lo the chair falls with a beautiful crash,

And the blocks fall, down on the people’s heads,

And the water comes slooshing sloppily out across the floor.

And so forth.

Not that success, for him, is sure, infalliable.

But never has he been afraid to reach.

His lesions are legion.

But reaching is his rule.

Radiance Shining Back

I was tempted to title my re-post of this great article “Standing Naked in the Mirror.”  But I didn’t want the spam.  In writing his post Janell Burley Hofmann does a great service to parents, playmates, friends of children, uncles and aunts, and extended family members.  I saw it on Margo’s FB wall and over at the Huffington Post, but it appeared originally at rachelsimmons.com, where I’m linking below:

I am sitting, cross legged, on the bathroom floor trimming my five year old daughters’ toenails.  My nine year old son showers his muddy body as I lean against the tub.  My three year old daughter wrestles herself into pajamas in her bedroom.  My eleven year old son bursts in from football practice and hollers upstairs about reheating leftovers and having a sore throat.  My husband is out dropping our minivan off for a tune up.  The sun has set and we’re putting another day to rest.  In the confusion of this typical weeknight, I glance up from the floor at my seven year old daughter, standing on the step stool, completely undressed, brushing her teeth.  I don’t like the way she is looking at herself in the mirror.  I don’t like the way she pokes at her belly and frowns at her profile.  I watch her for another minute and step in.

“What’s up, girl?”  I ask.  “I’m fat.”  she responds without hesitation.  I’m instantly weak.  She continues, “My stomach jiggles when I run.  I want to be skinny.  I want my stomach to go flat down.”  I am silent.  I have read the books, the blogs, the research.  I have aced gender studies, mass media, society and culture courses in college.  I have given advice to other mothers.  I run workshops and programming for middle school girls.  I have traveled across the world to empower women and children in poverty.  I am over qualified to handle this comment.  But in reality, my heart just breaks instead.  I am mush.  Not my girl.

I rally some composure and stay cool.  “You are built just perfect – strong and healthy.”  And she is.  But this doesn’t soothe.

Click here to finish reading.

Waiting, Adopting, Beauty, & Ugliness

Leslie Beckett, a sometimes guest on this blog, talks about waiting in a recent post at Confessions from Momville.  Her blog is partially dedicated to her discussing the family’s transition toward adopting a child.  In the post linked below, Leslie turns us toward some of the feelings attached to waiting, some of the feelings inside the process.

Adoption is a wonderful thing.  It makes sense that whenever people find out we are adopting that they are happy and excited and think it’s terrific.  We are direct recipients of the greatness that it is with Mike and our future child.  However, I have to admit that sometimes I wish people realized that it is so, very complex and not always so beautiful.  I mean, think about it, why does adoption exist in the first place?  Every addition of a child is a transition, but the factors that come with adoption can be hard, tragic, and wounding on all sides.  There have been times when I feel like people hear “It’s a small world” playing in their minds as they gush over adoption and how awesome it is.  I want to stop the music then.

One of the reasons I’m grateful for this post is Leslie’s ability to name the unseen.  She points out what most folks miss, the complexity of adopting.  There’s complexity in waiting too.  And then there’s ugliness.

Toward the end of her post, Leslie says,

Adoption is beautiful.  It allows for so much good.  But it is more than that, too.

I’m grateful that she’s writing about more than beauty as she (and they) step toward adding to the family.  If you want to read Leslie’s entire post or if you want to journey along with her and the Beckett family, click here.

Book Giveaway and Interview with Tayari Jones

I am grateful to have Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow, for an interview.  If you’re interested in getting a free copy of the novel, those instructions are below.  I’ve been following this writing professor’s blog for a few years, learning about the writing life, reading her critical analysis of events, and enjoying how she presents publishing and life as a woman of color.  I’m a student and fan.  I think you should be too, which is why I’m commending Silver Sparrow.

I think you should go buy this novel from the closest bookstore or rent it from you local public library.  I’ve made several recommendations like these in the author’s interviews, suggestions I hope you’re considering.

Here’s the interview:

MW: Congratulations on the multiple-weeks tour promoting Silver Sparrow.  How are you holding up during your book tour?

TJ: I’m holding up, but I have to say that I am tired. 40 cities is a lot of traveling, but I love connecting with readers to actually talk. It’s really inspiring.

MW: You had an interesting and maybe horrifying experience with the title.  Will you mention how you came to it?

TJ: Well, the short version is that my original title, SILVER GIRL, was already in use.  Another book with the very same title was just published. I had about a week to come up with a new title.  Everyone in my life jumped in.  I was just cleaning out emails and found some potential titles from brainstorming sessions.  It’s funny, but it wasn’t funny at the time.  And then a friend mentioned the hymn, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” and I knew that I had found my title.  It was a real blessing.  A gift.

MW: Your novels detail girlhood, picture femininity, and in my wife’s words describing Leaving Atlanta, “take me back to my childhood.”  How do you continually offer such real, honest, strong, brilliant characters?  How do you replenish yourself to keep seeing women for who they are rather than what’s often popular and visible if that makes sense?

TJ: First off, thank you to your wife for that compliment because that really was my goal with Leaving Atlanta–to remind people what it was like to grow up in the 1970s, to record our history.  To make a record that we were there.  I think the key to writing solid characters is to be a loving but honest observer.  When I write I think of real people, not people I have seen on TV or in movies–or even other books.  I want to make close replicas of actual human beings.  I don’t want to make a replica of a replica, getting further and further away from real and you can see how looking the way society wants you to look is like having a part-time job. I think we really squander our resources chasing down that ideal–trying to be show ponies.  But at the same time, we deserve the right to enjoy our bodies, our faces, our hair.  I wrestle a lot with keeping balance.

MW: You dedicate the book to your parents.  If this isn’t too personal–and I can’t recall whether you’ve blogged about this–how did your father respond to the story?

TJ: My dad emailed yesterday saying that he loved the book but he thought that James Witherspoon got off too easy.  My dad is my biggest cheerleader.  He is proud of me, not just for the text of the book, but for being brave enough to go my own way.  I feel like I should say, for the record that he’s not a bigamist!

MW: The women in this novel seek love.  They give it and seek it.  The ways the daughters sought their father’s love jumped out to me.  How was it writing two daughters with such competitive experiences?

TJ: Everyone in the novel is seeking love.  This is a book about how far people will go to keep their families in tact.  Even James, the bigamist.  Everyone in this book makes bad decisions for the right reasons.  The key to writing it was not to take sides–to write with as much affection for Laverne, the lawfully wedded wife as for Gwen the mistress “wife.”  The same goes for the daughters.  Everyone wants to be loved.  You can’t blame them for that.

MW: Are there any intersections between your life as writer and as professor?

TJ: I teach creative writing, so I feel like I am helping shape the literature of tomorrow.  I love watching a young writer grow.  It’s really inspiring.

MW: Among the many entertaining things about this story was the use of lies and the movement toward truth.  I imagine writing a story cloaked in deception was fun and challenging.  Any reflections on that?

TJ: There was so much pain in this story and I had to really keep my eyes open as I wrote it.  The stakes were so high for all the characters that none of them could compromise, and as a result, everyone was compromised.  I didn’t take pleasure in watching the lies unravel.  I feel really attached to my characters.  I knew that at least one of the characters would lose everything and everyone they loved.

But I think that the pleasure in this story comes in the pleasure of reading a difficult story on a difficult topic.  There is a sort of joy that comes from facing the truth, and looking it in the face.

MW: If you had to keep one of your characters with you on your book tour, who would it be and why?

TJ: I would chose Dana’s running buddy Ronalda. I like that girl.  She’s funny and she knows how to keep a cool head.

MW: How can readers keep in touch with you, learn about other works in progress when they come, and support the growing reception ofSilver Sparrow?

TJ: I would love for folks to come out and say hello to me when I’m on book tour. You can see my whole schedule here http://www.tayarijones.com/appearances.

If you’d like to enter my contest for a free autographed copy of Silver Sparrow, leave a comment with a book title and the author’s name that you recently enjoyed or one that simply stays with you.  I’d love to know what about the work stuck with or struck you, though that’s not required for the randomly selected winner to be chosen.  Post the comment by midnight, CST, June 13, 2011.