My Heart Is Breaking

I need to preface this with: I know I don’t have the right words. I don’t have the perfect solution. But I do care and at a time like this, that matters. 

My heart is breaking. And if you have to ask why, just look at the headlines that scream about another mass shooting. Oh wait, they simply speak. They speak because in this country that was built on freedom and liberty, front-page shootings have become a regularity. They have become so commonplace that we are no longer surprised.

My heart is breaking because we have already tried to brush this incident aside with claims of mental illness as though that justifies what this man did. As if othering him with a diagnosis, a diagnosis issued by our  great nation of arm-chair doctors, will be enough to understand and close the case on what he did. But mental illness is not synonymous with violence. My heart is breaking for those who are diagnosed with mental illnesses every day who, because of incidents like this, feel as though they can’t own their illness and get help for fear of the stigma.

My heart is breaking because the state in which this occurred doesn’t seem to understand the cultural significance of flying a Confederate flag at their state capital. Doesn’t seem to understand that flying it had half-mast is even more of a slap in the face to the victims’ families who are gathering in their historically black church where just last night their family members met for prayer and were gunned down.

 My heart is breaking because this president has had to speak to the nation 14 times about gun violence. We try to pretend that it is not significant, that it doesn’t matter that THIS president, this president who was supposed to represent how far America had come since we built our houses and our fields on the backs of black slaves, this president who was supposed to signify that we live in a post-racial society, that this president had to speak about racially motivated gun violence. Again. And he had to address a nation who has seen it all before.

My heart is breaking for the church in which these people were praying and the fear of prayer this might inspire in others.

My heart is breaking for the families of those killed who have been thrust into the spotlight during the worst moment of their lives.

My heart is breaking for Charleston and the rest of the South who is being described by the media as “backwards” and as a breeding ground for hate.

But mostly my heart is breaking for our country. A country that fails to address its systemic racism even in light of so many recent incidents. It’s time to wake up and see what is right in front of our faces. We like to boil stigma and systemic racism down into sound-bites, into 140 character explanations, but for this and so many other things it does not work.

If you are interested in exploring issues of systemic racism in the United States, I recommend the following books:

Men We Reaped by Jessmyn Ward
Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozie Adichie
Kindred by Octavia Butler
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Killing Rage by bell hooks
The House that Race Built by Wahneema Lubiano

If you are interested in donating to help the victims’ families and their community, check out these links:

Here are some insightful and thoughtful tweets I’ve seen. I’m putting them here in case they help you process or make you think.

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Mourning the loss

When e-readers first came out I was among their loudest critics. How could they possibly simulate holding a book? Wouldn’t reading on a device take away the essential “readingness” of the experience?

Kindle 2nd Generation

During my freshman year at Kenyon, a student was selling a brand new kindle for about half-price; I took this as a sign that I needed to try it out before I ridiculed ebooks any more. Color me surprised when I ended up loving it!
Though it doesn’t exactly replicate reading a physical book, e-readers are surprisingly lovely to read on. I have a definite preference for the kindle because of its e-ink/non-backlit design; to me it is a lot more like reading a paperback.

Which brings me to the title of this post. Earlier this week I reached into my backpack to read an ebook between classes, only to find my kindle screen hopelessly broken. After calling Amazon and confirming that it was indeed beyond repair I set up my pity party, complete with a trip to the library to check out books to fill the void. While I am being a bit over dramatic, the truth is I already miss my kindle dearly and I might just have to bite the bullet for a new one.

Know where I can get one gently used?

Back to Basics?

Reading for the nightYou know those nights when you do something so simple it feels decadent? Part of my New Year’s resolution was to spend one evening a week without technology – no phone, computer, iPad, or television. This may not seem all that difficult for a library science student but somewhere along the way I got the idea in my head that reading for pleasure, especially all night, was a decadence to be had only infrequently – like champagne or dark chocolate.

This Thursday was the first night I’ve really been able to indulge. Due to problems beyond my control (a late class, a bus issue, bad weather), I found myself with a whole evening open. Never one to turn down a good opportunity I found myself searching Netflix for my next favorite series. As good as Revenge sounded, I was drawn to the idea of finishing my latest read Mrs. Queen Takes the Train even more. So I did.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt so relaxed or so at peace. Was it the book? Possibly, but a review on that is coming later. Was it not staring at a screen? Eh, that had something to do with it but wasn’t the whole cause. I never let myself indulge in that much reading because it seems too unproductive somehow (in a way that watching television doesn’t). Watching tv is a culturally accepted way to waste time but in general it isn’t a real pleasure. Taking the time to undertake personal re-discovery instead of simply reducing boredom? Priceless.

When was the last time you did something you love unexpectedly?

Support Books of Wonder

First off I’d like to apologize for not posting for a few weeks. School has really revved up and I’m spending more and more time working on group projects! I have a few posts lined up for the next few weeks but before I get to book reviews and library school discussions, I wanted to do a quick post on a subject that is close to my heart: children’s literacy.

My passion for children’s literacy is no surprise to those who know me. Reading is such an integral part of who I am — I can remember what book I was reading during almost any major life event. More than that, my love of literature and my passion for literacy are the reasons why I chose to pursue my master’s in library science!

This summer I had the opportunity to visit Books of Wonder in NYC and listen to Peter Glassman talk about how children’s books are an important piece development (check out my posts about my stay in NYC here). By the end of the morning Mr. Glassman had all of us in tears! BOW is such a great resource for children in NYC; they hold author events, readings, special parties and volunteer at the local children’s hospitals. There’s something magical about walking in to Books of Wonder — a little like crossing into Narnia!

Needless to say, when I heard Books of Wonder was in trouble I was shocked! Here’s a little video about what happened:

Did that video break your heart like it did mine? Check out the link below to help them if you can.

A poem for your weekday

This week in my advanced poetry writing class we’ve been looking at the work of Adrienne Rich. The poem that spoke to me the most was “Diving into the Wreck.” It’s such an interesting exploration of gender and memory!  Here it is below:

Diving into the Wreck
First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.