Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: essays

About Us: Essays from the NY Times Disability Series

 

I’m happy to say I have an essay coming out in this fall collection on disability. You can pre-order now. Here is the link to the book at Amazon.ca. Here is the link for Amazon.com. Here is the Publisher’s Weekly review:

“In this exquisite collection drawn from the Times essays series started in 2016, disability is, refreshingly, seen as a part of daily life, even as the contributors discuss facing a “world that does not expect us and is often not made for us.” Ona Gritz, who has right hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, recalls asking a literary agent who suggested she write a memoir, “Would I have to be disabled on every page?” Coeditor Garland-Thomson, having learning her asymmetrical hands and forearms are caused by complex syndactyly, an exceptionally rare genetic condition, no longer feels like an “orphan” but part of a “world of disability pride and advocacy.” Similarly, the late Oliver Sacks finds value in his disability, an increasing loss of hearing, enjoying how “in the realm of mishearing… a biography of cancer can become a biography of Cantor (one of my favorite mathematicians)… and mere mention of Christmas Eve a command to ‘Kiss my feet!’ ” The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act comes up often throughout, making fully clear the turning point it represented. Demonstrating, above all, the value of persistence, Catapano and Garland-Thomson’s anthology merits a spot on everyone’s reading list for its brilliant assemblage of voices and stories. (Sept.)” Publisher’s Weekly

Kirkus Review calls it “A rich, moving collection.”

New essays up at Medium!

image by Jessica Poundstone for Gay Magazine

I’m moving some of my essays onto Medium for your reading pleasure! Here’s what’s there so far:

The Pleasure Scale, Gay Magazine, about how, as a near shut-in, I find pleasure

The Preludes to Assault, about a short encounter with Jian Ghomeshi, and sexual violence

The Nothing Between Your Legs, about my non-binary life as a girl in the 1950s; first published in Autostraddle

A Night of Art and Anti-Art, about a walk on beach one evening with Liz

Many Gendered Mothers

Ah, but we have a smart and sharp bunch to celebrate over at Many Gendered Mothers, where we publish essays on writers’ mentors. Today Rose Cullis writes on finding and admiring Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts and feeling “…as I read it, I felt a shift in that place where the meanings are.” There is no more you could ask from someone’s work, is there?

Please join us and send us 800 words about your lit hero. We especially welcome submissions from and about marginalized authors.

 

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) BELIEVE THE VICTIM

This is a literary blog and exactly the place literary essays about domestic violence belong.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month in the US. November is Domestic Violence Awareness month in Canada.

S/he/they don’t have to be hitting you for you to be a victim; abuse happens with gaslighting, lying, cheating, yelling, sexual abuse, dehumanizing you, demeaning you, threatening you, throwing things, frightening you/the children. This month and next, I ask everyone to remember that this is not just a heterosexual, able-bodied crime. The disabled are victims of violence at home at a much higher rate than are the able-bodied. Queers and trans people are frequent victims of violence both outside the household perpetrated by strangers, and inside it perpetrated by their intimate partners. If you want to read more about queer violence, I started a website to collect the pieces I could find about it at www.queerviolence.com.

Thank you, readers, for having the interests of victims at heart this month and next. It is your understanding that will make a difference. Thank you for educating yourselves.

All a household needs for domestic violence to occur is one partner who feels entitled and willing to batter. It’s not about the victim. It’s entirely caused by, about and the fault of the offender.

Why doesn’t she leave? S/he/they have told her that she’s crazy, she’s imagining things, it’s not that bad, s/he/they love her. Periodically, the violence ends and the loving relationship begins anew, refreshed and revitalized This pattern of violence broken by love broken by violence broken by love eventually twists a victim’s mind. She believes in the love. She hungers for it. She needs it. It’s the “real” relationship, after that. The violence is just something to be borne. This creates a psychological condition called trauma bonding. (In a hostage situation the same dynamic would be called Stockholm Syndrome.) When there’s violence, she would give anything, do anything, be anybody just to have the pendulum swing back to where her partner loves and approves of her again.

Kids are often caught in the crossfire and this is particularly grievous because they are observing behaviour that will make them feel “at home” as adults. They won’t know how to form healthy relationships with healthy people. If you can’t make yourself leave for yourself, make yourself leave on behalf of your children.

Call your local transition house because, there, you will have breathing room to think through your circumstances and to begin the process of healing and figuring out the next steps to your free future.

What can you do? Support resources helping battered women. Educate yourself on feminism and why it’s critical to everyone’s future. BELIEVE THE VICTIMS. If you like the offender, and you don’t like the victim, nevertheless, BELIEVE THE VICTIM.

Read Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.

Below, I’ll link to literary essays on abuse. Please feel free to add the ones that have been important to you in the comments.

It Will Look Like a Sunset by Kelly Sundberg, Guernica, Best American Essays

Apology Not Accepted, a blog by Kelly Sundberg with guest essayists on the topic of IPV

(Stay tuned for a book on the topic by Kelly Sundberg in 2018.)

Using CNF to Teach the Realities of Intimate Partner Violence to First Responders: An Annotated Bibliography, by Christian Exoo, Assay Journal

The Story of My Fear Over Time, by Kelly Thompson, The Rumpus

Underwater, by Kelly Thompson, Manifest Station

I Understand Why Some Women Stay, by Virginia Mátir, xojane

The Mule Deer, by Debbie Weingarten, Vela

On Car Accidents and Second Wives, by Mandy Rose, Apology Not Accepted

Never Say I Didn’t Bring You Flowers, by Jane Eaton Hamilton, Apology Not Accepted, Full Grown People, notable in Best American Essays

 

 

Skinning the Rabbit: the essay at The Sun

My second piece (after a piece of fiction called “Hearts”) with The Sun appeared in July, but there was only a preview online. Now they’ve put the entire essay up, but the best news, the absolutely best news, is that they’ve opened their archives. How wonderful for all of us. I can see what we’ll be reading for the unforeseeable future. If you are a subscriber, you can see it all; if you’re not, you can read two pieces a month. Huzzah!

Skinning the Rabbit

Caroline Leavitt, folks, on the discouragement of writing and how to overcome it

This terrific essay by Caroline Leavitt on Susan Henderson’s LitPark: The Sticky Subject of Success

“I wasn’t successful. I knew it. My friends were getting prizes and important reviews and bookstores so filled that people had to wait outside. When people asked me what I did, I said, “I’m a writer?” with a questioning lilt to my voice because I wasn’t so sure, since success seemed so scarce.

I roamed the bookstores and looked at books and I couldn’t figure out, why was this bestseller better than my book? Why did friends of mine get the things I yearned for—and get them so easily? Was I doing something wrong?” -Caroline Leavitt

Writing and Disability: She used to be a writer, but then she got sick

At the wonderful Lit Hub, Emma Smith-Stevens writes about the shock of illness, and how losing physical capacity threw everything else in her life into question.

I Used To Be a Writer

“Matthew Klam’s New Book Is Only 17 Years Overdue” and other tales of failure

 

the new book

Over at Vulture, Taffy Brodesser-Akner has a terrific feature about Matthew Klam’s career and his new book. Every writer should read this. We all deal with self doubt and castigation, I think. The article is a really a good look at Klam’s early fortune; about how just as he was deciding he’d quit writing, he got a yes from Dan Menaker, editor at the New Yorker, for one of his stories. (My stories got lots of comments from Menaker in my time, and once we even moved into editorial, but I never quite got the yes. The story that came closest was published in the Alaska Review.)

The world opened for Matthew Klam, and his list of early awards and honours was daunting. He had it all except for a second book. As the years passed, he still didn’t have a second book. He wrote continually, he tossed continually, he taught instead for its anonymity.

For me, the world never opened, and my talent, which was substantial but wanting, withered from lack of support. I didn’t have an MFA program to weed out weaknesses. I learned slowly. Sometimes folks went mad for one story or essay, but when they wanted more, the more was always so different they didn’t like it. This is a problem with range and writing across genres (and letting my heart have its way).

I needed an imprimatur I didn’t have. A Menaker imprimatur, maybe. Once Ellen Seligman at M+S spent six months telling me yes, telling me no, telling me I don’t know, I go one way, I flop the other way, and I wonder what would have happened if she had said yes eventually, whether that profound novel about child rape in the world of wild mustangs I was then working on would have come to fruition. All these years later, I’m still curious about what would have broken out of me if by chance I had just been valued and nurtured, and really had to work to an editor’s expectations. I would have risen, I know, because I am like that, but in what way, to what end?

What literature did I not produce because I:

a) wasn’t quite good enough?

b) wasn’t repetitive enough?

c) there was discrimination (even inborne and unacknowledged) against certain categories of writers (disabled/queer/feminist)?

d)  wasn’t from the US?

What would those stories and books have been?

I was low-income and a sole-support parent a lot of those years. And of course I asked the same questions Matthew Klam asked himself: What does this matter? Who needs another story? Another novel? To what purpose? To win a prize and still be unable to pay the bills? I certainly never cared about a postmortem reputation–that and $5 I’d get a plastic glass of latte at Starbucks to set on my gravestone.

I won the CBC contest a couple times. I published in the NY Times, the Sun and other strong periodicals (back then and again this year). But no successes ever built, no one ever tucked me under her mentor wing. I still write in my self-propelled bubble without much response. I certainly write now without any hopes at all for the marketplace–really, only to please myself.

I had my perfect form and lost it. I quit writing stories and nobody noticed. I quit writing stories and only a friable piece of my heart noticed. I struggle to write novels, but I am no novelist. I am no novelist.

Maybe Matthew Klam is. I look forward to reading Who Is Rich?

The Vulture

 

 

Many Gendered Mothers: Ntozake Shange

I’m not sure Ntozake Shange would be thrilled at being my literary mentor, but nevetheless, she was my first and I honour her every writing day.

Many Gendered Mothers

So You Want To Write About Life

gillianjerome_sidebar_retina

Gillian Jerome is a poet and essayist from Vancouver, British Columbia and a contributing editor at GEIST. Her work has appeared in GEIST, New Poetry, Colorado Review, Malahat Review, Canadian Literature and elsewhere.

Life Writing

March 25 @ 2:30 pm7:30 pm

“I write to define myself—an act of self creation—part of the process of becoming.”
–Susan Sontag

“This workshop is designed for people who aren’t professional writers, but who have something meaningful to say about their lives. We will learn how to discover our stories and to focus our material using techniques of creative nonfiction and Life Review, an educational process that enhances our understanding of ourselves and our lives through storytelling. By reading, writing and participating in interactive exercises, we will be guided toward finding new ways to write about our lives, for ourselves and/or for others.”

Life Writing

The Heart-Work: Writing About Trauma as a Subversive Act by Melissa Febos

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sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton after Shiele unknown date

The terrific Melissa Febos asks the question: If writing about trauma happens to be therapeutic, does that make it worthless? Or particularly valuable?

A great essay at Poets and Writers.

27 Books Every Person In Any Country Should Read

…but especially if you’re attending one of the hundreds of Women’s Marches around the world this weekend. Or should I say especially if you’re not?

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“These novels, essay collections, memoirs, histories, and more will help you understand why there is no feminism without intersectionality, why we should remember our history before we repeat it, and why Roe v. Wade is a lot more tenuous than you might think.” -Doree Shafrir

Buzzfeed Books

“Friends don’t let friends drive rape culture”

I am embarrassed and ashamed of my colleagues who’ve signed a letter called “An Open Letter To UBC: Steven Galloway’s Right To Due Process.” They say this is not about Steven Galloway, but a complaint about “process” at UBC, although its title belies this.

As I have stated, I don’t know the particulars of this case and I don’t know Mr Galloway, but what I do know is rape culture. What I’ve said on FB and repeat here now is: Just because someone is nice in your presence does not mean anything about their behaviour when you’re not around. It is not a ninety percent indicator of the unlikeliness of a crime or misdeed. It is not even a one percent indicator of an unlikeliness of a crime or misdeed. If you think you can disprove, say, battering, because a certain person was really kind when your mom died, or loaned you money for your dog’s surgery, or was your friend since childhood, or wrote a great book, or is warm and friendly around you, and you know them to be compassionate and giving, and funny, you are naive. I understand the impulse–you love or like or admire somebody. But you don’t know them around the complainant unless you are the complainant or a first-hand witness. Period. You don’t.

I’ve heard a lot of statements similar to “We just need to give him/her/them the benefit of the doubt. The process was bad and they’re a friend.” I hear “Innocent until proven guilty.” But this was and is not a court of law. This was and is an employment contract. I hear “Due process,” but the right to due process doesn’t actually exist outside the legal system. I hear grave concerns about UBC process but then I discovered UBC process is actually underway now, and not complete.

Women have been proved to lie about sexual assault in fewer numbers than those that lie about house break ins or thefts; depending on the study, between two to eight percent, which means of course that about ninety-five percent of sexual assault allegations are true, and statistically, it would very much beggar belief if in cases with multiple complainants there appeared multiple liars. Margaret Atwood’s comment, over at The Walrus, in saying that “To think that members of a group called “women” are always right and never lie does a great disservice to accusing women and abuse survivors is bloody insulting–to vulnerable peoples’ struggles to be heard when they speak against abuse of power, and to intelligence.” For Margaret Atwood to say, “If it’s a matter of rape, then it should be a matter of jail,” flies in the face of all knowledge about Canada’s dangerously flawed sexual assault system–more than a half million assaults yearly with 1400 convictions. It’s against everything that feminism, no matter your brand of it, stands for. And to say an “unsubstantiated” complaint is necessarily untrue? Have we learned nothing? Is this the Twilight Zone? This letter yanks Canada’s understanding of rape culture back fifty years. I ask again, as others ask: Why on earth doesn’t the presumption of honesty follow complainants?

Please. Disagreeing with signatories is not a “witch hunt” and not a “lynching.” How disgusted and livid would I be if I had had an ancestor burned at the stake or hung from a tree? How trivializing. Her rants are on Twitter. With the real threats to the marginalized coming fast and furious in the US, and more slowly here, you’d expect hyperbole like this would be met with aghast outcries from signatories. That Atwood further makes a veiled threat about the “consequences” of disagreeing with the signatories in her Walrus letter is unsettling. How are marginalized/dissenting writers supposed to trust, now, that their manuscripts will be adjudicated by these signatories on merit?

Thankfully, more than a dozen people have pulled their names from that letter, and Camilla Gibb has done so with thoughtful, genuine remorse while speaking of painful assaults in her academic career. She sees that the letter’s intent did not match its damage. Her efforts are appreciated.

If you are looking for more information, you can consult the Globe and Mail, Twitter, Quill and Quire, Bookriot, FB and The Walrus. Dorothy Palmer has written important FB posts explaining process at UBC that I suggest everyone avail themselves of.

Context

In thinking how to help with my limited resources, I noticed Doretta Lau’s generous offer to mentor UBC students. I never went to UBC, or indeed to any writing program, but I can throw my skills into the hat, in order that I am doing something and not just yapping, and offer to mentor a queer/disabled UBC student (or someone who yearns to be one) working in short forms. Someone, please, who couldn’t afford such consultations on their own. There won’t be a charge. Please pass that around.

There are more of us in the rest of CanLit than there are in the signatory list of the CanBully letter. That letter is just the last gasp of an ossified system–you can hear the thing wheezing. We support you, complainants, and we salute your bravery and courage, and we apologize for all the pain and repercussions you’ve had to suffer.

“Friends don’t let friends drive rape culture.” -Dorothy Palmer

In the words of Nancy Lee:

cxb3vr5wiaaoxtg

 

Because it was this brain…

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My favourite writer to listen to is Joyce Carol Oates and it is precisely for her questing brain. Here is Joan Frank discussing Oate’s SOUL AT THE WHITE HEAT at the San Francisco Chronicle:

Soul at the White Heat

Soul at the White Heat

Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life

By Joyce Carol Oates

(Harper; 390 pages; $27.99)

Best American Essays Notable

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Thrilled to have an essay chosen as one of the notable essays of the year in Best American Essays 2016, ed Jonathan Franzen. I rarely write non-fiction so it’s a doubly pleasing honour for me. I once had a story chosen as a notable story in Best American Short Stories, and a poem will come out this year in Best Canadian Poetry, so the cross-genre’ing pleases me. Now, the substantial pleasure of reading these celebrated essays!

Never Say I Didn’t Bring You Flowers, Full Grown People, ed Jennifer Niesslein

Dorothy Allison at Tin House

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Dorothy Allison is one of my critical writers … a writer I need in the world.

Dorothy Allison at Tin House

Kettle Holes by Melissa Febos

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Share with me, if you will, the stunning reclamation of a girlhood in this essay, Kettle Holes, by Melissa Febos, up today at Granta.

Kettle Holes

Do the arts matter?

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In Madeleine L’Engle’s swiftly tilting planet, how could the arts matter? How could putting words into a computer have any impact at all? And do we even write to have impact, or do we write to make the inchoate tangible? Do we write to remember and forget? Do we write to be counted? Do we write to communicate and explicate and read as antidote? Do we read to comprehend? Do we read to learn?

Marsha Lederman reports from the Globe and Mail.

The Rumpus Saturday essay!

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sketch by Jane Eaton Hamilton

Infarct, I Did

by Jane Eaton Hamilton

Fair play: can literary festivals pay their way?

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Here’s an issue near and dear to my heart. With nearly everyone around the publishing industry earning at least a piddling wage, from the guy transporting the books to your shop to the guy looking after your plumbing to the editor, guess who still isn’t?

The writer.

Writers toil on a hope that ten percent of the proceeds from sales of their books will pay their mortgage, feed their babies, and keep them in licorice. With books sometimes coming out as infrequently as once a decade, with a best seller in Canada selling only 5000 copies, you can do the math yourself.

It’s appalling that publishing systems are in place to look after everyone all along the chain except for the actual lynchpin of the entire operation.

Now here comes Alex Clark talking about the money for writers at literary festivals. “Pullman’s standpoint was unequivocal: “A festival pays the people who supply the marquees, it pays the printers who print the brochure, it pays the rent for the lecture halls and other places, it pays the people who run the administration and the publicity, it pays for the electricity it uses, it pays for the drinks and dinners it lays on: why is it that the authors, the very people at the centre of the whole thing, the only reason customers come along and buy their tickets in the first place, are the only ones who are expected to work for nothing?”

Fair Play

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