Thank You – November Readings

beautiful book celebration close up
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I want to thank those of you who have come out to support me at the Nomadic Press book launch in September and at the readings in October at Pandemonium Press at The Octopus Literary Salon, Literary Speakeasy at Lit Crawl, and the Bay Area Writing Project at Expressions Gallery. And a big, hearty thank you for buying my book How it Happens​ (Nomadic Press, 2018). 

It’s been wonderful to connect with you and to share community through words, laughter, sighs, reflection, and sometimes tears. I thoroughly enjoy continuing the oral tradition of poetry through readings and events.

I will be at two more readings this month, one on this coming Sunday, November 11th at Adobe Books in San Francisco, and the second on Monday evening November 19th in the Poetry Express series, Himalayan Flavors restaurant in Berkeley.

On Sunday, I will read at the Gears Turning reading series hosted by Kim Shuck, Poet Laureate of San Francisco. I will be reading with and meeting Lauren Ito and for the first time – looking forward to it.

I’m dedicating the Sunday reading to my mom who would have turned 93 on Sunday. She supported me and my writing and I am grateful for her in so many ways.

Gears Turning
Adobe Books and Arts Cooperative
3130 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Sunday, November 11, 2018
4-6 pm
Featured Writers: Lauren Ito, Joyce Young

Host: Kim Shuck, Poet Laureate of San Francisco

I will also be reading at the long running Poetry Express series in Berkeley on Monday, November 19, 2018 at 7 pm. I’m dedicating this reading to gratitude for life itself.

Poetry Express
Himalayan Flavors Restaurant
1585 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94703
Monday evening, November 19, 2018
7pm
Featured Writer: Joyce Young
Host: Bruce Bagnell

I hope to see you at one of these events, hope you’re enjoying reading How it Happens, and if you can’t make it, to a reading, be sure to send me good mojo and spread the word about the book.

To purchase How it Happens, click on Nomadic Press

The Octopus Literary Salon Wednesday 10/3/18

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I am on a roll with readings of late. And that’s a good thing because I really enjoy lit events – being featured, reading with other writers and being in the audience.

This week, I’ll be reading at:

Pandemonium Press Presents

Hot! New! Books!

Wednesday October 3, 2018 at 7:00 pm

The Octopus Literary Salon

2101 Webster Street

Oakland, CA

I’ll be featured with Mary Mackey, Kelly Landmine and Cassandra Dallett

I’d love to see you there!

There will be an open mic.

Food and drinks will be available for purchase as the venue is a café. Yum.

The Gauntlet

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I wear a short Afro and have my hair cut several times a year. I love my hair with its thickness and mix of salt and pepper. There is more salt shaking these days but the salt has an orderly plan for framing my face, while the pepper fills most of the sides, back and top of my head. I usually go to see my stylist on Saturday afternoons when my schedule is more relaxed. I like the area the shop is located in – across the street from Peet’s Coffee, down the block from Arizmendi’s and a few blocks from one of the best farmer’s markets. It’s busy with all shades of people, kids in strollers, folks eating, shopping, clutching coffee cups, talking, and being with one another.

The minute I sat down in my stylist’s chair, I landed in the middle of a lively discussion about Jennifer Hudson, her partner and their son. One of the 30 something male stylists seemed to have done a lot of research on Jennifer’s business. According to him, Jennifer was taking legal action against her partner because she wanted custody of their son. Jennifer had been touring and she had been leaving her son behind with her partner, who had been doing the job of raising and caring for him. And now ungrateful Jennifer, who wasn’t carrying her weight as a mother, wanted to use legal means to get custody of the boy.

Since I wasn’t up on this story or the rest of Jennifer’s business, I was intrigued about the scoop and the commentary. My stylist, Sam (not his real name), is a man, too and it seemed as if both men were taking sides. The decision for both of them was that Jennifer was wrong. She was a bad woman and she was (and has been) doing her man and her son wrong.

I have to admit that I don’t know Jennifer Hudson. I am only acquainted with her performance as Effie in the most recent film version of Dream Girls. I really can’t take sides on something or someone I don’t know a good deal about. This does not mean that I have never engaged in such behavior before. Of course I have.

The discussion about Jennifer became even more interesting when it somehow veered toward Black women who say, “there are no good Black men.” I don’t remember whether Sam, a 70-year-old Black man, mimicked the phrase or whether he led into it with “And they say there are no good Black men.” Meaning that Jennifer’s man is good and she of course is bad. No matter, I am old enough to know that at that point in the conversation the gauntlet had been thrown down.

I declined to pick the gauntlet up and continued to listen to the two men talk. What followed was an indignant, “Well, white women are finding them!” and that was followed by a “Yeah.” Again, Sam spoke this. Again, I remained silent and chose not to pick up the gauntlet. I knew I was being baited. Sam was waiting for me to either say that I couldn’t find a good Black man (and was guilty of saying or thinking this) or rail against white women and blame them for my sorry predicament. I did neither of these things because I am neither sorry or in a predicament.

As if on cue, a gorgeous brown woman walked into the shop with a Black man, who she called “honey” as she asked him to take her jacket and she sat down in the stylist’s chair, which was opposite mine. She was tall and curvy, with great cheekbones, and wavy black hair. She might have been Asian, Latinx, Native or Multiracial. After all, we were in Oakland, and everyone lives and loves here; the ethnic possibilities are endless. We smiled at each other when Sam turned my chair in her direction. I wanted to stand up, look Sam in the eye and say “Ha!” but I also wanted a really good haircut, so I restrained myself.

The truth is that, like Jennifer Hudson, in the past I have been cast as a bad woman. I’ve been called bad for telling the truth, and bad for being independent. A friend’s husband once asked me why I didn’t call on him for advice when I bought my first car. The truth was that was confident in my evaluation and negotiation abilities to do what I needed to do to buy the car. I had a mechanic look it over. I negotiated a fair price. I bought the car. That was that. The fact that I didn’t ask him for advice wasn’t personal. However, this man was not implying that I was a bad woman. I had recently moved to California to attend graduate school and I needed to buy my first car. I was from New York City and had only borrowed cars for shopping trips to New Jersey or rented cars when I had needed them for road trips. My friend just wanted to be helpful and make sure that I would get a good deal.

On the other hand, the bad woman shaming I have experienced usually occurs through comparison. One of my ex boyfriends was a master at bad woman shaming. He once stated “Why don’t you cook for me when I visit you? A woman cooks for her man when he visits her.” His reasoning was that I did not cook for him, so I was a bad woman, bad girlfriend. I was not moved to change my ways.

This same ex boyfriend also compared my spending time with him to my watching a sunset by myself. I’d asked him if he’d wanted to come with me to one of my favorite places during a summer evening right before sunset, but he had said no. Later that evening when he saw me, he presented the comparison in the form of a question. Did I like spending time with the setting sun better than spending time with him? I told him that the question was silly. How could one compare the two things? My real answer, unstated, was the sun, definitely the sun.

Bad woman shaming can wear on a person. For the one being shamed it can mean suffocation, doubt, holding back. It can mean being miserable, but it only means these things if she believes what the speaker or the passive aggressive parent, boyfriend or relative says, for these beliefs really belong to the ones who voice them. Once the person they are trying to shame stops believing these things, even for a few minutes, she can breathe again. And that is why my time with the shaming boyfriend lasted only 6 months. Shaming is just not sustainable in a relationship with anyone. I’ve very happily been a “Shamers need not apply for friend, acquaintance or boyfriend status” woman for many years now. And I can breathe.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t personally know Jennifer Hudson, but I do know about the gauntlet that is often thrown when men are discussing gender roles and women are within hearing distance. I could have picked up the gauntlet, but I don’t think that the best time for me to share my thoughts on gender roles and shaming is when a man is cutting my hair. After all, I want to walk out of the salon looking good.