Hello good readers of Bitch blogs! Starting this week for the next twelve weeks, I'll be blogging at Bitch about Indian feminist books and films and I might quite possibly "ruin" India for many of you (it's a superpower of mine, I'm often told) and I'm hoping in turn you'll "ruin" my impression of north-Atlantic feminisms (which in my experience have not been of the most dedicated listeners). Apart from the sense of accomplishment I get while rupturing romanticized versions of India—because really, who wouldn't be happy to break bubbles like: "What do you mean there are no tigers on the street? So this tattoo really means "my father is over there" in Sanskrit? Why can't I like, go to tribal camp?"—I also hope that this break in lines of thought and action will make us talk and listen to one another.
Bryant Terry's The Inspired Vegan is aptly named; it's truly, well, inspiring. Terry, who dubs himself an "eco-chef," is more than just a cookbook author, and this is more than just a cookbook. It is a delicious spark of revolution and call to action, and filled with many delectable recipes, along with the music, literature, and art that inspired his menus. It is an ode to movements and people that fight for justice, set to an infectious soundtrack.
Bitch magazine readers may recognize Jennifer Cruté's round-faced, deceptively cute characters from her contribution to the "My Dark Confession" comics feature in the Noir issue, no. 42. If you're not familiar with this under-the-radar indie artist, now's your chance to get acquainted with her. Since her Bitch comic, Jennifer has been busy finishing a three-part graphic novel series—that is, when she's not doing Current.tv specials, getting nominated for a Glyph award, showing her work in museums, and working on erotic paintings, natch. Bitch is proud to be selling the first in the trilogy, Jennifer's Journal: The Life of a SubUrban Girl (left) at BitchMart!
In this book ("NOT recommended for children" a cartoon Jennifer cautions on the front), Cruté recounts her childhood growing up—the good (her BFF stuffed frog), the bad (Dad not pulling his weight), and the hilarious (I probably laughed the hardest when a young Jennifer orders a huge piece of Trinidadian rum-soaked cake thinking it's chocolate…and her mother makes her finish all of it).
Intermixed are journeys into her family tree and one-panel portraits of friends' childhoods, with the last third of the book focusing on Jennifer's questioning of church—which uncoincidentally dovetails with discovering her own sexuality. Her cartooning style is deceptively playful; these snapshots of her life, family, and identity are far more complex. Cruté's able to leverage humor to tackle some heavy stuff, making for a compelling read and an exciting debut.
Cruté, who currently lives and works in Brooklyn, spoke to that aspect of her work with me, as well as how the book came about, working as an Black graphic artist, and the time Shirley Chisholm snapped some sense into her. Read on!
Some will say that there are technical considerations—the quality of rendering, the beauty of the language, or the composition of the scene make a difference between obscene and not, porn and art.
Personally, whether it's prize-winning literature, a cheesy film, or a fashion spread, my impulse to name the obscene, to pick up a black marker or start scribbling protests in the margins, depends a lot on who wrote, or painted, or filmed it. After all, you don't want your vision of the world hijacked by just anyone, even for a moment or an hour or a few hundred pages. Do you?
Claude Monet called Herman Bang's wartime Tine "the world's first Impressionist novel," floating as it does between characters, events, and chronology. Alexandra Harris' short, delightful book Virginia Woolf, published last fall, is a similarly Impressionist biography. The move to present Woolf—a writer who has been explored, revealed, questioned, adored, criticized, and lionized, over thousands and thousands of pages in the 70 years since her death—in just 192 pages and 10 chapters, is a bold one, to say the least.
When I found out that Starhawk, famed Earth Activist, spiritual feminist, Witch and permaculturist, had written a children's book, I bought it before I knew I was ever going to be pregnant. The pictures, done by artist Lindy Kehoe, are beautiful paintings. The story centers on an herbalist (or witch), and introduces children to a woman healer making healing decoctions with herbs, emphasizing how important it is to keep wilderness, healthy plants, and wild spirits within alive, as well as being appreciative of the women (and men) who take care of the natural world. The herbalist witch in the book knows the natural world intimately, and knows how to respectfully and ethically use plants to make strong teas, brews and "soups." She not only uses the natural world, she is part of it, intertwined seamlessly in its tree branches, helping give health to it just as it gives it back to her.
As a Portland native and book lover, I've spent my whole life obsessed with Beverly Cleary. I wore the spines out of all of her books, my mom took us to Grant Park when they unveiled the Beverly Cleary statue garden (and Madame Cleary herself was there!), my cousin works at Beverly Cleary Middle School, I watched the crap out of my taped-from-TV copies of that late '80s Ramona series, etc. If you've found as much to love about her and her work as I have (and I bet many of you have), join me in celebrating her 96th birthday today!