Jul 2, 2017

Powell’s (and Oregon)

I finally made it to Powell’s, and the city of books lived up to its description: it’s without a doubt the best bookshop I’ve ever been to. I think very fondly of my visits to, say, the Strand or Barter Books, but nowhere is quite like Powell’s. At most bookshops I’m excited if I find one or two books by my go-to authors, but Powell’s had pretty much everything. There was a whole shelf worth of Angela Davis, and the Ursula Le Guin section in SFF was three shelves long. Most bookshops have their strong areas; at Powell’s every single section I was interested in — children’s books, comics, poetry, queer literature, feminism, you name it — was amazingly well stocked. Also, as pretty much everyone who visits Powell’s tends to say, I loved that new and used books were kept together, and that I had a choice of prices and editions for whatever I was looking for.

I spent three hours there and didn’t see half of it. Let me give you a glimpse of my visit:

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Jun 25, 2017

Seattle in Libraries and Bookshops

Seattle was the first stop of my West Coast trip, and the place where I stayed the longest. I was very lucky: in a notoriously rainy city, I got blue cloudless skies for all but one day, and also the warmest Memorial Day Weekend in over forty years. I got to see and do a lot: I hiked on Mount Rainer, had amazing food, wandered around Capitol Hill and took photos of the many protest posters and stickers, visit Ballard and Freemont, climbed many hills with stunning views of the city, walked along the waterfront, spent time with people I love — and of course, visited many libraries and bookshops.

You might be unsurprised to hear that my very first stop was the Seattle Central Library. I knew it was housed in an amazing building, and it didn’t disappoint in person:

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Jun 18, 2017

My Bookshop and Ice Cream Tour of the Pacific Northwest

Lighthouse by the Pacific
Hello, friends. Once again I went silent on here for much longer than I had intended. 2017 has been eventful to say the least, in ways I didn’t always have the right words for. I didn’t stop writing over the past few months; not exactly. But as I said last time, most of what I wrote took the form of long, meandering letters to friends, as I tried to make sense of myself and the world around me in dialogue with others. Part of what I’ve always loved about blogging is that it’s essentially an extension of that process — I’m starting to feel ready to carry on doing it in a more public fashion again. We’ll see how that goes, I guess.

I’ve recently returned from what amounted to an ice cream and bookshop tour of the West Coast of the United States, all the way from Seattle to LA. This trip did a lot to restore my sense of hope, a process no doubt greatly aided by hearing the UK election results come in as I drove down California from Santa Cruz to LA. Things are still in a pretty dire state — I have no illusions about that. But just a few days ago, on the anniversary of Jo Cox’s assassination, I was thinking that this is the most political hope I’ve had all year. Nothing is inevitable. I needed to be reminded of that, both when it comes to my life and to the world at large.

Anyway, I’m hoping to tell you more about my trip in the coming weeks, particularly about all the excellent bookshops I visited (Powell’s is real, it turns out, and even better than I was led to believe). Travel posts have always been among my favourites to put together, and I thought that might be a nice way to ease myself back into regular blogging. Also, I’ve missed you all. When I was in Seattle I had the chance to met my old blogging friends Kristen, Robin and Lena; I only wish I hadn’t missed Amy and all the other West Coast friends I didn’t have the chance to get in touch with. I’ll do my very best to make sure there is a next time.

Other trip highlights include getting my first glimpse of the open Pacific during a perfectly timed but entirely accidental musical moment; Earl Grey ice cream at Bi-Rite; Land’s End in San Francisco, the highlight of a perfect sunset tour; hiking on Mount Rainer National Park; getting to see sea lions; buying a copy of Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer for a friend; finally getting to try Ethiopian food; wandering around the Castro the year I came out as a queer woman to most people in my life, surrounded by friends I feel seen by; having a picnic by the sea on my last full day; apple fritter donuts from Blue Star; all the road trip singalongs; City Lights; and of course all the books I got:

In case you can’t read the titles, they are:

  • Very Far Away From Anywhere Else by Ursula Le Guin (because I couldn’t leave Portland without a Le Guin book)
  • The Girls of Peculiar by Catherine Pierce (because my friend Ronni sent me this tweet)
  • The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
  • My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet (my City Lights acquisition; the Angela Davis blurb sealed the deal)
  • The Moon Is Always Female by Marge Piercy (because of course)
  • Crush by Richard Siken
  • The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde (finally!)
  • Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and its Metaphors by Susan Sontag (likewise; these two have been hard to find)
  • Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks
  • Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
  • Everfair by Nisi Shawl (signed!)
  • Princess, Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill (also signed!)

    Everfair and Crush were presents from the lovely Lena; the Cashore trilogy was long overdue (I don’t like the UK covers, so I really wanted to get the US editions); and most of the rest came from Powell’s – I was doing so well until I got there.

    More soon, I hope! How have you all been doing?

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    Apr 3, 2017

    Ten

    London on a spring day
    Hello, friends. I didn’t intend to be silent on here for over two months. It’s been an eventful year — not only in the sense of reeling from current events, much like so many of you, but also in the sense of having a lot happen in my personal life. I hesitate even as I draw this distinction, and think, as I have so often lately, of Adrienne Rich: “But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged / into our personal weather”.

    In short, there has been some space for defiant living, despite everything — I’m just sorry that I haven’t written here more. I’m still reading, even if at a slower pace. This year, so far, it was especially important to me to revisit The Dream of a Common Language (I can’t think of another book that I read three times in the space of eight months) and to read Sarah Schulman’s The Cosmopolitans, which Cass very kindly sent to me. There’s a lot more I could say about both of them, and hopefully I will.

    Although I’ve been quiet on here, the past two months haven’t been a time of silence. I’ve been writing a lot of long letters, making sense of myself and of the world around me in the context of dialogue. I was thinking recently that when I was younger, I used to feel anguished if I wasn’t writing privately — journaling, I guess, which is what I did the most at the time. I felt that I was being subsumed by the self I was with others, that I would drown without that very private space where it’s just me and my words. I still care about that space, but I really don’t feel that way anymore — don’t believe in the primacy of my private self as opposed to my relational self; have become more interested in who I am and can be in collaboration, in dialogue. This interest is personal, but it has, I find, political implications. Again, the distinction feels arbitrary.

    All this to say that this blog’s tenth anniversary, which came and went last week, feels like as good a time as any to dust off the cobwebs and jump back in. I like how writing here balances the personal and the conversational. This, by the wonderful Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, expresses why I keep doing it:
    I write in order to stay alive. I write because it’s the way that I can understand myself and express all the contradictions, hope, tragedy. It’s how I think. I’ve been writing so long. It’s how I engage with the world. It’s how I find my place in the world. It’s one way I’m able not to feel hopeless all the time. Because, I feel hopeless a lot. I’m able to write about it, which makes me feel less hopeless. And, it’s my creative expression. People I may not know choose to connect with it. I search for connection or possibility. So, in a way, I write not to give up. Also, things that mean something to me, that do not exist generally in the world, especially in media.
    My life would be very different today if a decade ago I hadn’t started doing this, alongside all of you. Thank you so much for reading.

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    Jan 22, 2017

    March

    Pro-Choice, Pro-Feminism, Pro-Unicorns
    Yesterday I took the train to London to march in solidarity with my American friends, as well as with — to borrow the perfect wording from Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants — all those affected by the global rise of the far right. A march is of course only the first step in what is sure to be a long, hard, and often dispiriting fight; nevertheless, yesterday gave me more political hope than I’d felt since the 24th June. And that, too, is why we march — so we’re surrounded by fellow humans who remind us with their presence, with their bodies and with their voices, that we’re here to fight together, to prop each other up; that we cannot and mustn’t do this alone.

    (The sign above: it kind of sums up my life.)

    It meant a lot to me to be a part of this — to be marching in spirit with my close friends in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and upstate New York; with blogging friends all the world over; with none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda and Sir Gandalf himself in London; with my beloved Angela Davis in DC. It mattered to me that people were gentle with each other and deliberately kind. It mattered to feel the opposite of the wariness, of the exhausting suspicion of my fellow citizens, that I felt after the Brexit vote. That feeling alone won’t rid us of the threat of fascism, but it’s a fundamental starting point. As they say, “rebellions are built on hope”.

    A few photos:

    Proud to be a girl
    This sign ensured I started crying before I event left the train station.

    Hope in the Dark


    Okay ladies now let's get in formation

    Queer power
    My heart.

    This is not normal

    Lesbian librarians for books, not crooks

    Love cats, hate Trump

    I'm scared

    I am not free while any woman is unfree - Audre Lorde

    Trump: just say Knope
    Oh my god.

    Black Lives Matter UK

    Trump: fuck off
    Simple but to the point.

    We Stand Together: Hope, Not Hate



    Trump: Nope

    Resist

    Love and Hope, Not Hate

    Rebellions are built on hope

    Rainbow flag

    Love, not hate

    Princess Leia: We Are the Resistance

    Angry feminist immigrant
    It me.

    Your silence will not protect you - Audre Lorde



    Build bridges, not walls

    Respect

    Immigrants: we get the job done
    You all bring me hope, too. Thank you for being here with me.

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