MomAgain@40 review: We are never alone — Poetry of a Hobo Mama

I'm so thankful for this review from MomAgain@40 of Poetry of a Hobo Mama:

Poetry of a Hobo Mama: The First Three Years
I am really enjoying the honest look into motherhood. […]

I love her honesty as well as her excursions with attachment- and natural parenting style.

The poetry is a raw and honest account of pregnancy, miscarriage, birth, babies and motherhood. […]

I am copying one of the poems. One of the most poignant life-altering changes that new parents have to cope with. "Mothers are never alone" But is also a reminder to me that mothers also share the same journey, and in that we are never alone!

Read the full review and the poem over at MomAgain@40.


Loose vs. lose

The copy editor is in.
I'm presenting occasional posts on the use of English,
not to be pedantic but just for the fun of language.

Dog running away from me...
If your gate is loose, you might lose your dog.

Ah, the two-Oed monster. It's so tempting for internet commenters everywhere to write loose no matter which word they mean. It must just be fun to type those double Os.

"Loose" is pronounced with a short S sound, the kind that sounds like a hiss. As in "sound" and "hiss," in fact.

"Lose" is pronounced with the Z sound that S can make, as in the second S in "sounds."

Once you can remember how each is pronounced, you probably can figure out which one you want at a given moment. "Loose" is usually an adjective or adverb, describing something that's unfixed or unbound. (It can also be used as a verb, meaning "to set loose.") To "lose" is always a verb, meaning to forsake or misplace something.


Book review: The Help — Reassuring white people

Once again, I bring you: review for a book (and movie) no one's talking about anymore! Whee! Good thing I'm not a newspaper.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, has been recommended to me by no fewer than a dozen people in real life and untold multitudes online. So why, when I first heard about even the premise, did I feel so uneasy and so sure I wouldn't like it?

Let's unpack it a little. The Help is written by a white woman about black women. It's written by someone who was a girl in the 1960s about people who were adults during that time. It's written by someone in the middle/upper class about people in the working class. And not just about, but it's seeking to tell their stories — these people whose lives she is so far from experiencing.

And that gets a little meta, because Skeeter in the book is exactly the same thing: white, upper-middle class, young, telling the stories of maids.

I'm a writer of fiction. I don't at all believe you have to "write what you know" in some narrowly defined sense of not being able to write from a different person's point of view or tell a story set in a different time period. Where I think it crosses the line into potential racial offensiveness is when the perspective that's taken is one that has historically (and currently) been silenced and ignored. In other words, let me just say it outright: Where does a white lady get off thinking she can speak for black women?

Now, I'm writing this review from the point of view of being a white woman myself, so I poked around to see if any African-American women liked The Help. Funny enough: I found many eloquent voices decrying it. There's a clue right there.

I feel a little silly being another white woman talking about a white woman talking about black women, but I'll go with it. I'll say upfront that this review is addressed to my fellow white people, whether you're as clueless as I often am or not — though, naturally, I invite any people of color to read along and tell me what you think (about the book or my review) or point me to other resources, if you'd be so kind. And it's not meant to be condemning of white people, or to say that you shouldn't have liked The Help if you did. It's to talk about these issues, because I think too often as white people (blinded by privilege), we don't see the racist aspects of books like this.

So let's unpack this a little further. The characters in the book are types, not people. The black characters, particularly Aibileen, fit the mammy/magic Negro/noble savage stereotypes that have been offending people for years. I don't use those terms to suggest that I regularly use that language or enjoy doing so; that's kind of my point. They're offensive stereotypes, even though they're "good." This is a nonthreatening kind of black person, who exists to help white people accomplish what they want.

The white characters, with the exception of Skeeter, are mean bigots. On the surface, you'd think that having most of the white people be evil is not racist, in much the same way that you'd think having most of the black people be good is nonracist, but we just discussed why that's not so. Here's the problem with having the white people be bad-white-person stereotypes. We all look for someone to identify with in fiction, so it has to be someone. A white person reading the book thinks, "Wow, I'm not as mean as those other white people. That means I must be Skeeter." Then the next step is to assume that, if you lived in the 1960s, you would so totally be the type of white person who helps out black people.

But, statistically speaking, that's bologna. Because most white people in the 1960s were not in fact monsters and yet did not help out black people. So chances are, if you're white and were an adult in the 1960s, you would not have done anything to further the civil rights movement beyond, at most, cheering it on from a distance. In your head. But probably you wouldn't have gone even that far.
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