Scrolling through Instagram I’m delighted to see so many of us on vacation/staycation, whether it’s running through the sprinklers in the backyard, strolling an exotic beach, or chilling to your favorite song like this happy being (seriously, click the link!). I’m delighted that we’re taking time to play.
I’m currently writing a story about a family; an African American man, a white woman and their children. I’m writing from the woman’s POV, but I worry. I have so much to learn and understand about privilege and guilt, micro-aggressions and being seen. It’s scary, being a middle-aged white woman, living in white, white Portland, Oregon, writing about race. But, if we stay in our lane, how do we ever learn, how do we flex our imaginations and grow our compassion muscles? I reread The Color of Water, by James McBride. McBride is an African American man, with a white, Jewish mom. The book is the story of their family (12 kids!). It’s a gorgeous and powerful memoir. I’m so glad I picked it up again and got to know his family. Here’s McBride:
“During the rare, inopportune social moments when I found myself squeezed between black and white, I fled to the black side, just as my mother had done, and did not emerge unless driven out by smoke and fire. Being mixed is like that tinging feeling you have in your nose just before you sneeze—you’re waiting for it to happen but in never does. Given my black face and upbringing it was easy for me to flee into the anonymity of blackness, yet I felt frustrated to live in a world that considers the color of your face an immediate political statement whether you like it or not. It took years before I began to accept the fact that the nebulous “white man’s world” wasn’t as free as it looked; that class, luck, religion all factored in as well; that many white individuals’ problems surpassed my own, often by a lot; that all Jews are not like my grandfather and that part of me is Jewish too. Yet the color boundary in my mind was and still is the greatest hurdle. In order to clear it, my solution was to stay away from it and fly solo.”
McBride’s family was not always met with beauty, insight or generosity, and yet they thrived.
I also want to share with you an essay from Amy Scheiner. An amazing woman I was lucky enough to have in my workshop. She writes about her mother with love, honesty, and all the complications. Read it here.
“When I took her to the airport, I could tell we both were feeling the same pain in the space between our stomachs and our hearts. The pain of saying goodbye. “Promise me you’ll never leave me,” I pleaded as I had done since I was a child, terrified of living a motherless life, believing without my mom’s strong arms to carry me, I would surely fall.”
Amy does not fall. Amy soars.
Is your summer writing jam fizzling out? Get to it, Gorgeous! Here’s a few prompts:
1. Select a random household object (e.g., toy soldier, silver dollar, souvenir shot glass, button, box of matches, photograph) and answer the question: Why I stole it. (For a great example of where a prompt like this might lead, read Mona Simpson’s amazing story, Lawns.)
2. What’s a deep, deep, bottom of the barrel human fear? That we are unworthy of love of course. To access that fear, write about a crush. A crush bursting with yearning, but zero possibility of happening. Where you were dashed to the rocks of rejection. Oh come on, you have one. You know you do. (I’m looking at you, cute Steve C. in 7thgrade!) Your crush is right there, on the tip of your tongue. Describe the crush. Write a scene. Be certain to orient us in time and place.
3. Write three 150 words pieces, one from age 0-6, one 7-12, one 13-18. Set your timer for 8 minutes (you’ll do this 3 times), choose one moment from each age that’s attached to an unsettling emotion. Describe the moment using as much sensory information as much as possible.
4. Finally a little mysticism, a little woo-woo serendipity in a prompt:
So much gorgeous eating to do! We were just in Victoria BC and loved all the food. Our favorite spot by far was Agrius Restaurant. If you want a little food-porn jolt, take a peek at the website. The most delicious thing I had was the spaghetti with lemon, fava beans, peas, tarragon and morels. Damn! It inspired me to want to make my own pasta…almost. I don’t have the equipment, but I like the idea.
Here are a couple versions of the dish, this one, from the NYTs is behind a paywall, in case you don’t have a subscription, I’m including this beauty from Saveur as well. Be certain to add lemon, and replace asparagus, or peas with favas if you choose. Super delicious, super quick meal.
All the berries are calling to me to make some jam. For that I don’t need special new equipment. But I do need a tried and true recipe for sugar free, or low sugar jam. Help a girl out? Hook me up with your favorite recipe, please.