As a teacher to high school children, whenever we discussed social justice in the worlds of books we read, one question that would repeatedly come up was, "How do we understand privilege, if you say it is all around us—how can we work with the 'lowest' common denominator if there will always be more walls and more marginalization?"; and I remember not being to answer that question most of the time. By the end of the year, as a class, what we could loftily conclude was where our own privileges and marginalizations lay; given that we did all that we could to "not speak for others." Of course, we should have realized that growing up in Bombay meant we were speaking for others; coming of age in the decades of neoliberal economic policies in the cultural capital of the country does that to a generation of people—by being the very people who later India Shining addresses, we yield that kind of power. The privilege to voice someone else's story, and to use our particular frame to view their lives.
Trans icon Kate Bornstein's memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today, shines a bright, unflinching light on self-image, gender, and life on the far edge of the fringe.
GeekRadical.org is in its final push in a Kickstarter campaign to publish a Feminist Speculative Fiction anthology through PM Press. The goal is to "emphasize women's speculative fiction from the mid-1970s onward, looking to explore women's rights as well as gender/race/class/etc. from as many perspectives as possible."
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?