a humanoid pile of books and paper
This newsletter bears a handful of events, a bushel of book reviews, and the usual media link shares and small personal musings.
Hallowed greetings, dear reader. I’m in the kitchen where I live. Where I live there’s a woodstove that burns timber, and it is delightfully toasty right now. But if you’ve ever lived in one of Philly’s Victorian era houses (or any old house anywhere), you’ll understand me when I say the air in the rest of the house is comparatively brisk. Winter beckons.
How’ve you been? Every time lately someone’s asked me that I respond with the nondescript “pretty good.” After months and months of drinking an herbal tea to regulate my hormonal moods, after beginning to take a B12 supplement with my morning meal, after getting serious about cooking for myself once the solstice came, and keeping up with the neighborhood trans friendly lifting club, I feel QUITE emotionally stable. This has been a long time coming, and follows in the steps of securing a bit of material stability before it. I’m in couples therapy. I’m in regular therapy.
And so now, after ten years, I’m on the verge of leaving my job to attempt a 3 month self-induced writer’s retreat. I am thinking of one time, either @ajomarimacho or Lou (I can never find ur handle!) was on twitter talking about how some arts/writing workshops and retreats are essentially expensive vacations you pay to go on. And truly, they are, aren’t they. Shout out to Wesley for that time sending me hell of links to artist retreats—I have been tempted to apply to them, but without mentorship in the picture I’m very hesitant. It could be just like that Carmen Maria Machado story I hated about an anxious queer woman being at a writer’s retreat, surrounded by obnoxious and entitled weirdos.
So maybe, in the time I get back to myself starting this January, I will start a weekly workshop group so that we can all critique our projects and keep each other going. Let me know if you are interested in that. As I’ve said before, being outside academic and art institution settings and trying to get mentorship has been a joke! (Shout out to all those within who have reached out over the years thus far to provide opportunities.)
The homie Ras was linking me to some NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month) information, and since it seemed they were pretty serious about doing it I was like ok me too. I never had a buddy before to even attempt it with so here goes nothing. So I’m doing NaNoWriMo. Please send me your genki-dama style energy that I get through what needs to be done with All That’s Left, and make serious headway on this damn thing!
Ras had also linked me to this newspaper article about this woman who was making serious $$$ from a self-published fiction series, After, she had been writing on Wattpad. The article seemed timed to accompany the debut of a made-for-Netflix movie, and so in the middle of reading it I was checking out this Wattpad platform. It says it’s sort of a social media type platform for fiction writing. I was like oooo man this is like an updated sort of fanfiction.net!! And I started paging through all the top ranked stories, checking their tags, reading a few bits of chapters—it’s definitely a next gen fanfic.net situation, just with space for original fiction as well. It has a phone app. Some big time published authors have their stories on there for free. You can get subscribers and paid followers. You can upload cover art for your stories. I signed up and ported over a couple stories under my usual handle, cyborgmemoirs. I’m very happy at the possibility that random people will be able to find my stories.
Speaking of stories, my apologies if you’ve been waiting for me to drop some new audio tales—I held off on a newsletter earlier cause I was hoping to have them on offer, but I’ve been unexpectedly busy and/or conserving my energy and resting when I can. That’s still a big TO DO, so …stay tuned there. If you are looking for some weird, stimulating, audio story type shit, PLEASE please spend some time with the ethereal/field recordery/experimental FLOATING WORLD podcast that area badass Ada has been doing. It’s my favorite kind of shit. Like tune in to the hidden radio station on your dial and get captivated by the transmission level shit. And speaking of transmissions, I wanted to also share King Britt’s Transmissions radio show, which I finally got a chance to listen to. I dunno about you, but these are the kinds of things that suffuse me with energy to write.
It’s also true that reading good stories gives me energy to write. I’ll get to some book reviews in a minute, but first here’s some…
Nov 9th | Saturday, 5:30pm at Novel Idea Bookstore | 1726 E Passyunk Ave, 19148
I’ll be joining the homegrown Weird Kids Wanted podcast for a speculative fiction panel episode. Waiting to hear back from the bookstore what their accessibility info is, will update on my IG. I hardly ever make it to that East Passyunk ave area, so come thru if you live down that way. :)
Nov 16th & 17th | weekend, noon~5pm at The Rotunda | 4014 Walnut Street | wheelchair accessible
I’ll be tabling Metropolarity books, posters, my own books & zines, and other gear the whole weekend. Plus catch a sweet lil Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfic I wrote that’ll be in a collab fanzine with @koreabootrash @skudsink and @anujink (who did the amazing cover).
SPEAKING of SOME EVENTS in PHILLY TO ATTEND, the homie Joe’s SEPTAcalendar is a very fine place outside of social media to check for stuff to do. It also has a growing list of accessibility info for various venues around town.
Last I wrote, I was promoting the Venus Square Saturn reading party, so let me just update and say that the event was QUITE a dream come true. It was well attended. People were into the stories. We had a little open mic. Readers were paid! Smut zines were sold. It was beautiful. I didn’t take a single blessed picture (except of Marcus/Fatherfucker). Thank you to everyone who read, helped out, Malachi and the Vox members who hosted. Come December I hope to update with new workshops or at least a fresh call for submissions for the next episode.
a few reviews
Nell Irvin Painter’s The History of White People
The History of White People is written by Black historian and author, Nell Irvin Painter. I haven't read a ton of history books for fun, but this one was a ~very~ smooth read. Physically, it's one of these floppy pulp paperback books with pleasing wop-wobble heft. There's a chapter titled \White Slavery as Beauty Ideal\, dissecting Western Europe's 18th century sexual-beauty fetish for light skinned Georgian, Ossentian, Circassian women discussed mostly in writing and never seen in person. There are chapters titled \The White Beauty Ideal As Science\ and \Johann Friedrich Blumenbach Names White Peple "Caucasian"\. A chapter really reaaally lays out how Ralph Waldo Emerson is a preeminent contributor to racist-American thought. Another lays out how the myths of Anglo/Saxon/Norse/Viking identities have been created, spread (and by whom), and used as facist-racist propaganda by major players in history to legitimize American'ness and racial/white superiority.
It's pretty good!!
It's easy to read. Conversational. Fun. Only a handful of chapters later on get a little dense with names and dates, but if you're willing to keep track of the centuries as you read and maybe already have done some investigation into origins of European & American identity (or at least regional history of these places), you will come out of this book like DAMN. History is wild yo. It truly is. I had a old codger of a history teacher in 8th grade (we only learned about the civil war all year), who said history is written by the winner. And as an 8th grader you can say, yeah no shit old man. But as you begin to experience the passage of time in stranger and more heartbreaking ways, you realize it's really that way for real.
Like Ralph Waldo Emerson was basically writing homoerotic fan-fiction about tall strapping Anglo Saxon men, and he was doing well-paid lecture tours at all the ivy league schools for it! Legitimacy in this book is shown to be the product of upper class men who either had education or big business, both of which control/led mass media popular thought.
The History of White People starts with the Greeks (as most of [white] history likes to) and goes to our contemporary times. Recommended.
Wendy Trevino’s Cruel Fiction
Shout out to Faye for pulling this off the shelf in Penn Book Center and telling me to at the very least read the last poem in the book. After flipping through and seeing critiques of Gloria Anzaldúa, POC identity, anti-Blackness, a poem for Jamie Berrout, and some other things I wonder about but rarely say aloud, I was like yeah ok here is a poetry collection I will definitely read. I am not one to read poetry. I will go to a poetry reading many times more than buy a book of it. So that is to say I enjoyed this one, as a time capsule of many topics floating about in personal conversations and private/socially monitored online spaces. I will save my deeper criticisms for conversations with friends but in general I'm trying to read more of this anti-capitalist cohort’s poetry.
Cherríe Moraga's Native Country of the Heart
Native Country of the Heart is Cherríe Moraga’s memoir about and relationship with her mother, Elvira. A friend and I went to go see Moraga speak at the book’s release at the People’s Forum in New York City, and we were both tearing up with deep feels in relation to the passages she read to us. Us raised in the United States with immigrant Mexican parents. It was powerful to hear someone from another generation (and a formative generation for many–Moraga co-edited This Bridge Called My Back with Gloria Anzaldúa) respond to audience questions on current political quandaries relating to xicanx identity and latindad, which is fitting given the book itself works through many thoughts about Mexicanism/Mexican’ness as it has/becomes generationally diluted and removed from indigenous origins (especially people whose family lines come from lands in and around what is now the US/Mexico border.
Cherríe Moraga talks about the world surrounding her mother and the circumstances it wrought on her over the years, including her own withdrawn white father and his presence in their family’s life. Not just him though–the effects of assimilation/aspiration into white American society come under scrutiny time and again. And not just that, but the ways patriarchy and the brutal surveillance of a colonizer Catholic society contains someone designated ‘woman’ and ‘not indio/Black’ in said society.
I can’t say I enjoyed this book as much as I simply wanted and needed to read it. If you are like me, and you are looking back at the world that shaped your own parents and family, it is a good commiserating read. Before reading it, I didn’t know Moraga was a half-white mixed person like me (my words, not hers), and that made me think a lot about how many times I’ve read or heard about mixed people of color’s shitty/pathetic emotionally absent and/or selfish white fathers. How the mother’s non-dominant culture becomes impressed upon the child. The formation of a non-white identity despite being “half” white. In the book, her white father has the presence of a limp piece of bread, and she even remarks that when her mother finally dies her father’s first response is to worry about himself.
A personal aside: When I went to get my book signed, Miss Moraga asked me for my name in Spanish. I responded with my chosen name in English (as it often needs repeating), and I saw her expression change so quickly. Internally I scoffed (seemingly scorned, however gently) and sad-sighed–revealed as just another someone one circumstance removed from a purer, more meaningful culture, maybe a poser or faker or appropriator. Just one more violent unspeakable situation removed from relating to a truer identity that would make me more legible to a dominant group or more righteous in refuting my position in anti-black/white supremacist society. Or if I’m honest, the bite of exclusion where being able to speak Spanish would have absolved me, just a little bit, of my otherwise suspicious whiteness. (I really appreciated Wendy Trevino’s poetry for going in about white supremacist cultural norms in chicanx identities, btw.)
If you don’t know, I am of Mexican heritage on my father’s side (and he is read as racially ambiguous, tho constantly interrogated by white people in his restaurant jobs–and his own self identification seems to change/ebb/flow over the years). I was much more vocal and vulnerable about this in the high era of tumblr. It’s since become questionable to hash out my personal identity quandaries in cyberspace public, and in the end aren’t so many of us mixed white people just WHITE in the black/white race binary??? (And you know I believe all binaries are false.) I think there is something to confront and deal with there, an interior work, while still holding on to our myriad home cultures and strange/oppressive/violent/othering treatments in society.
For me, Native Country of the Heart was one of those powerful reads about someone’s own life and own mother and the mysteries of her life that can only be pieced together from a lifetime of observation/reflection and stored memories imbued into that person’s objects and dwelling spaces. Reflection born from the difference between you and your parent’s experience in the world, and the cultural/racial/class norms you are all subjected to the genocidal settling of what we now call Mexico and the United States by what we now call Europeans remains a haunting, and I think we’re all caught up in it no matter who we are on this land. I think these sorts of memoirs that reflect upon one’s own family, that ruminate over the circumstances of violence leading to your family’s assimilation and forced forgetting, and the honoring/remembering of what is and was lost–it’s just one step, a baby beginning step to cycle breaking. Maybe.
Alex Smith’s ARKDUST
ARKDUST. What can I say? I've watched local legend Alex Smith perform his short stories for years now, and his tales always always always make me giddy with amazement and emotion. I love the mixing of mundane details with fantastic element, his penchant for perspective jumping and simultaneous layer weaving, his exacting captures of the outrageous and demoralizing, his city as universe dream as reality style.
I catch some new feeling or new detail every time I've heard Alex perform a story that I've heard him read before. The archive-time capsule that is ARKDUST exceeded my own recollections of the times I'd heard these stories alive on the air. Some stories were new. All are portals. To me, they capture a #metropolarity essence of many intersecting parts at once–the resulting matter of the intersection/collision itself.
Alex Smith has organized all manner of events from workshops, fests, readings, shows, awareness-raising forums... played in bands... writes for local music XPN jawn and Philly Gay News... and so on. (Honestly they deserve a huge arts grant right now hint hint someone who knows.) Were some of the first #queerscifi tags on the early '10s internet about Alex's work? You heard it here first.
So ARKDUST is a must-read for me. Especially–let me not forget to mention–because it has many many excellent scenes describing fat hefty husky men and their bodies, and it's wild how refreshing and vivid it feels to read those.
The first run of his book sold out in like 2 weeks, and it wasn't till its recent 2nd printing that I finally cracked my signed copy open. You can get a copy via the Metropolarity distro, requesting your local library get you a copy, or direct from Alex themself.
That’s all I got on my end, dear reader. Hope you enjoyed your time here as usual. Please feel free to drop me a line, cheer me on for NaNoWriMo, or request some sort of content that you’d like to see me share here.
Take care of yourself.
Till next time
now, if you’ve made it this far, some links
• Dee Diggs on mixcloud. House music okay.
• Trans Women Writers Collective booklet series
• Renee Hobbs full What is Propaganda class syllabus, materials, and lecture videos. I had an extremely influential class & research assistant stint with Renee Hobbs during my time at Temple University, so I find her further work on propaganda useful.
• This Stanford lecture series on Human Behavioral Biology, which my man turned me onto, saying dude spends the whole series thoroughly unpacking all sorts of bullshit attributed to genetic traits, revealing instead the larger environmental, historical, and experiential impacts on people’s behavior/biological statuses.