I’ve had a not-so-secret dread of family gatherings ever since I was a child, and the holidays are a special kind of hell. For most of my life, Thanksgiving and Christmas involved herds of people who had some blood claim on me, crowded into a too-small house for hours on end. As a child, I can remember hiding out in a variety of places to avoid being forcibly squeezed in between a burly cousin who liked to tickle me, and an aunt who liked to pick scabs. It’s been my experience that it’s your family who most often feel totally okay about violating your consent with forcible contact.
Family gatherings have always seemed like a recipe for an introvert’s nervous breakdown. Being forced to socialize, make pleasantries, endure hugs and kisses, be quizzed about your life, your love life, your profession, your very existence.
Over the years, my family herd has thinned, as the elderly members died, and my generation failed to reproduce in the numbers necessary to pack a room. As those blood relations died, we replaced them in smaller numbers with friends, until this Thanksgiving, there were more non-relatives than relatives. Someone remarked on this, and on the importance of being able to form your own family from people you’re not related to.
This struck me as wildly funny, since that is the very nature of marriage: forming a family with someone you’re not related to. It’s what we do, so why does it so often strike us as strange or modern to bring outsiders to our family table? After all, we’re building families around strangers, when we marry them. To me, the joy of holidays with non-relatives is that I’m allowed to set boundaries with people who aren’t my family.
I think about this today, sandwiched as it is between Thanksgiving and Christmas, because of the deleted scene from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things that I’m sending out in my December newsletter. It’s about what happens after that awkward Christmas dinner at which Wavy’s ragtag family is reunited. It’s about making truces, setting boundaries, and agreeing on ground rules for all the future gatherings you have to face with people you don’t particularly like, but who are your family.
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Posted in Family | Tagged All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, bonus scenes, deleted scenes, Donal, family, holidays, Jesse Joe Kellen, marriage, negotiated truce, Wavy | 1 Comment »
During the 2000 election, I was living in Florida. A lot of talk was made about Al Gore being the lesser of two evils. Like the Clintons, he was deeply connected with Big Banking, Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Oil, Big Guns, and Big Prisons. In short, despite his pro-environment talk, Al Gore was in bed with all the moneyed interests that have worked so hard to turn America into an oligarchy. He was influence and controlled by the same powers controlling Bush.
Looking around at the problems that existed in America in 2000, I decided I didn’t want more of the same. I didn’t want an oligarchy. I didn’t want the kind of welfare reform and “tough on crime” nonsense that was a thin cover for the ongoing oppression of black people in this country. I wanted change, radical change. (The same reason I supported Bernie through the primaries this year. I still want change.)
I supported Nader, and not just at the voting booth. I campaigned for him. I knocked doors and rang phones for him. He was by no means a perfect candidate, but he was not part of the oligarchy.
On Election Day 2000, I voted for Nader. In Florida. I justified it to myself with the excuse that Gore was the lesser of two evils, and in doing so, I overlooked the fact that a lesser evil is inherently less evil.
I don’t know what the moral of this story is. You vote however your conscience or your pragmatism tells you to vote today, but remember Florida in 2000.
Hindsight, being what it is, how many of us Nader supporters think Gore would have been a worse president than Bush? More than 537 of us?
Posted in Important Things, Politics | Tagged bush, election 2000, florida, gore, less evil, lesser evil, nader, presidential elections | 3 Comments »
Last week, there was a bit of a dust up about All the Ugly and Wonderful Things on social media. I did my best to stay out of it, but having stayed out of it, I’d like to address the issue very briefly here and without naming names.
It’s okay to hate my book. Not every book is for everybody.
If you read my book and you hate it, that’s fine. We’re square, you and me. I brought myself to the book. You brought yourself to the book. Perhaps we’re just not compatible. That’s cool.
If you choose not to read my book, because of things you have heard about it, that’s okay, too. I often give books a pass if they sound like something I wouldn’t want to read.
If you choose not to read my book, but then publicly express your hatred for it and for anyone who enjoyed it, understand that your hatred is coming from a place of ignorance. Are you comfortable with being that person? Someone who hates something out of ignorance? Someone who judges people without knowing who they are or what they’ve been through?
On a nearly daily basis, I am called upon by strangers to defend All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. And if they were merely asking me to defend my book, I might not be so troubled, but this morning, I have yet another email that asks, “Why would you write a book like this?”
I suspect that the real question is Why do you exist? Within that question about my existence, there are these questions: Why did you choose to have a drug dealer as your father? Why did you experience things that make me uncomfortable? Why do you think you have a right to tell stories that reflect your life? Why don’t you shut up?
The answer is simple. I won’t shut up, because if people like you have the right to tell and read stories that reflect what you’ve experienced, people like me have the right to tell and read stories that reflect what we’ve experienced. I’m going to keep doing that.
Posted in Important Things, Writing | Tagged All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, controversy, defending my work, emails from strangers, hate, hate mail, hatred, ignorance, my life, own voices, shut up, stories, why do you exist?, Writing | 48 Comments »
You all were busy this weekend, as I woke up to more than a thousand reviews on Goodreads.
I guess that means it’s time to take a look at the poll for deleted scenes…
I think one of the hardest things I had to cut from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was most of Donal’s story after he was taken away from Wavy. When one is a famous, established author, one can get away with producing a sprawling 800-page saga, but publishing frowns on that for unknown, unestablished writers such as myself. So most of Donal’s life with Sean got axed early on, because it required the reader to follow and invest in two rapidly diverging story lines.
Because that’s such a big chunk, and I’m essentially a devious person, I’m not sending it all out at once. I’ll send the first two chapters tonight, and the next two when I hit one of the other two goals. Over on Amazon, only 26 reviews to go to hit 200. Mwahahahahah. If you’ve already written a review on Goodreads, it’s easy enough to copy and paste over to Amazon or B&N.
Or you could try giving your friends who’ve reviewed on Goodreads sad puppy eyes to convince them to post their review elsewhere. Here, you can use Josey.
Posted in books, Writing | Tagged All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, book reviews, deleted scenes, Donal, lost scenes, sad puppy eyes | 5 Comments »