Jane Eaton Hamilton

"She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted."

Tag: women

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

A Happy Announcement and a Submission Opportunity

I’m delighted to be one of the editors of the new Many Gendered Mothers!

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Shirley Jackson by Jane Eaton Hamilton 2016

From the site description:

“many gendered mothers is a project on literary influence featuring short essays by writers (of any/all genders) on the women, femme, trans, and non-binary writers who have influenced them, as a direct or indirect literary forebear.

This project is directly inspired by the American website Literary Mothers (http://literarymothers-blog.tumblr.com/), created by editor Nadxieli Nieto and managing editor Nina Puro. While we hope that Literary Mothers might eventually return to posting new pieces, this site was created as an extension and furthering of their project (in homage, if you will), and not meant as any kind of replacement.

Basically: which female ,femme, trans or non-binary writer(s) made you feel like there was room in the world for you and your artistic temperament, or opened up your understanding of what was possible, either as a writer or a human or both? Perhaps you were closely mentored by a particular writer or editor, or perhaps their work was highly influential, even if not in the most obvious ways.”

The other editors are: Adèle Barclay, Natalee Caple, Klara du Plessis, Sonnet L’Abbé, rob mclennan, Hazel MillAr, Jacqueline Valencia + Erin Wunker. Please submit your short essays to me, to them, or directly to neitherliterary@gmail.com.

Many Gendered Mothers

This Place a Stranger: Canadian Women Traveling Alone

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Get your copy soon at the book launch, May 9th, 7 pm, Artspeak.  (I won’t be reading since I’m out of town, but my included essay is “Things That Didn’t Happen,” which was first published at the Manifest Station by Jen Pastiloff.)

From the Caitlin site:

“Sometimes tragic, sometimes uproariously funny, This Place a Stranger is a diverse collection of Canadian women writing about their experiences of travelling alone. From the deceptiveness of the everyday to the extremes of geography, weather and violence, these stories go beyond the usual tales of intrepid male explorers and reveal the varied and unique circumstances in which women travellers find themselves when “going solo.”

When an Afghan soldier asks one Indo-Canadian woman, “Where are you really from,” her false sense of belonging comes sharply into focus. After thirty-seven years of marriage, another woman prepares for her return trip to Africa: vaccination boosters, nausea pills and lots and lots of condoms. A seventeen-hour journey by car through the Great Lakes region of Ontario leads another to dreamlike reflections on the travels of her Anishinaabe grandmothers and the ever-present “fear, worry” she experiences today. In another story, a woman poignantly searches for what many seek on solo journeys—inspiration, renewal, discovery—by returning to Paris only a few years after the painful dissolution of her marriage. But the grey February, a body in pain and the funeral of Mavis Gallant offer a different insight.

With new work from twenty-three emerging and award-winning authors including Yvonne Blomer, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy, Catherine Owen, Karen J Lee and more, these stories explore the unexpected blessings and soul-searching that aloneness offers: clarity, liberation, danger, misery, adventure, devastation and joy.”

Jen Pastiloff and the hunt for beauty

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l-r: Jen Pastiloff, Jane Eaton Hamilton

There’s something I can’t get off my mind; it’s been nagging.

A couple months ago, Jen Pastiloff came to town.  She’s the wunderkind behind the online home for great essays, Manifest Station, and a yoga/writing workshop phenom.  I first came to know Jen through her site when she published my essay about Paris, ‘Things That Didn’t Happen,’ which now appears in the Caitlin Press anthology This Place a Stranger, about women traveling solo.

All this is a long-winded introduction to the fact that Jen asked me to attend her yoga workshop here in Vancouver, BC, when she came to town earlier this year at Semperviva Yoga, and, reluctantly, I went.  (Jen knew getting me out of my house was like pulling teeth, but she kept at me.)  Despite a background in dance, I’ve never been a yoga enthusiast, and I’m also an atheist, and morbidly shy, and the whole spiritual thing makes me roll my eyes.  I slid down the wall at the back of the room, gamely played along to the limits of my creaky old body, and kept my eyes and ears open.

And, folks, a bunch of things happened.

She calls the workshop, after all, “On Being Human.”

But the transformative thing, the thing that hasn’t gone away, was this:

Women are hurting.

I’ve started this post several times and dependably backed away because I don’t know how to talk about this.

Folks, these were not my people.  I’m a wanna-be-butch dyke who has always wavered in my gender identity, and I’m old and my body is utterly broken, and the attendees were straight women mostly in their 30s who had maybe tried for:

Meet the guy of your dreams, have 1.6 children and a dog.  Live happily ever after.

And somehow nobody told them the whole freaking enterprise was broken, and that when an enterprise is that broken, it breaks its participants as surely as if they were just sticks.

Crack, crack, crack.

Nobody had told them this, or they were so busy with the job and the kids and the hubby, so overworked and mega-stressed, that they had no time to hear.  All they knew, really, before they landed at Jen’s workshop, was that they got a measure of peace from yoga, and otherwise, they were in trouble, and they were going down the tubes in a big fucking smear of shit.

They couldn’t save themselves.  Anytime they tried, they felt overwhelmed and under-capable and completely lost.  Anytime they tried, the drain just burped up more crap at them.

These were women living under seige.

Make no mistake:  life with a career and young kids (why aren’t they born with volume knobs?) and aging parents and a sputtering relationship and financial problems and medical problems and indecision and no respite bites the big one.

Quiet desperation, which I define as even one fleeting thought about hurting yourself or your kiddos, bites the really big one.  (As an aside, people may know that I decided to kill my children when they were 4 and 1, and wrote about it, and why I made that agonizing decision, and how I did not do it, but how I saved them from a molester instead, in my memoir ‘No More Hurt.’)

Women have always written about our dilemmas.  Remember Charlotte Perkins Gilman and her “The Yellow Wallpaper”?  Nothing here is new, but we’ve ramped it all up lately with the addition of technology and Super-Mothering.  When a woman is under that kind of stress, when it feels like every goddamned new thing that happens is peeling off layers of her skin, it feels new.  Bloody hell, does it feel new.  And it feels like it’s gonna hurt someone.

It feels like someone’s gonna die.

That’s where Jen Pastiloff and her Beauty Hunting come in.

The workshop participants were there to tell Jen that their fairytale broke.  They were there to tell Jen they were profoundly unhappy with their lives, and scared, and broken.

Now let me tell you what transformed me, and what I have not been able to forget or get over:

Women are hurting in huge numbers.  Women at the apexes of their lives are in grave trouble. 

It made me sad in a quintessential way and it has not stopped making me incredibly sad.  Every time I hear that Jen is giving another workshop, I flash back to that crowd of 60-odd women in Vancouver speaking about grief and fear and loss, and I imagine more women in trouble, room after room full of more women in trouble.

(A message here for women-in-trouble.  One or two things I know for sure, to plagiarize Dorothy Allison:  It gets better.  If you hurt like this now, it does not mean you will always hurt like this.  It gets a whole lot better.)

Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks.  Here’s the revolutionary thing.

She listens.

She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you.  Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals.  And then she gives them back to you.

Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity.  She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty.  She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves.  She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy.  She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were?  All of that is what it is.  But why it works is because of her kind of listening.

And what her kind of listening does is simple:

It saves lives.

 

 

Some new art

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After Matisse; after Frida Kahlo at 19 from her Self Portrait in Velvet Dress; after Modigliani; my own.

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