You have a little over eleven months to prepare, which should be plenty of time to get me this combination staircase/bookshelf/slide:
Just what every girl needs, really.
You have a little over eleven months to prepare, which should be plenty of time to get me this combination staircase/bookshelf/slide:
Just what every girl needs, really.
Posted by emilylhauser on October 17, 2013
Not that kind of shipping. Shipping. Like when you write fan fiction (on paper or in your head) in which fictional characters fall in luuuuve with each other and (presumably, at some point) have sex and/or are permanently joined together in sacred and/or fleshy bliss. It comes from the word “relationship” – hence “shipping,” as in: “I ship Harry and Ron, everyone knows they were the real love story at Hogwarts!”
And if you don’t know it yet — yes, that really is a thing, all across the various realms of geekdom, and recently more broadly in popular culture. So you’ll have fan communities who create art or write stories or make videos that bring together two (or more) characters who were not imagined by their creator as romantically involved.
Coupla things. Thing the First, and let’s just get this out of the way: I have a thing about canon. The creator is, to my mind, God in the universe of these characters to whom we feel so attached, and thus, if JK Rowling didn’t think that Harry and Ron would fall in love — well, she would know. Plain and simple. It’s one thing to create fan art that builds on the creator’s world, but I honestly think it’s another thing entirely to upend the story as the creator intended for it to be told. In my always humble (and probably minority) opinion.
But here’s Thing the Second, and Thing the Second is actually the thing that I believe is most important.
Most of these imagined relationships (Harry-Ron, Kirk-Spock, Jess-Jules [Bend It Like Beckham], Arthur-Merlin [Merlin], Katniss-Peeta-Gale, etc and so on, ad infinitum) don’t just upend the story as originally conceived, they upend the sexuality of those involved, often because the characters are so close — their relationship runs so deep — that we do not know how to let it be friendship. We do not know how to understand need and longing and fierce loyalty, unless it’s about romance and sexuality.
And thus, to my mind, when we ship Kirk and Spock, or Arthur and Merlin, or Sam and Frodo, we’re not only doing a disservice to the creator’s vision, we’re dishonoring the characters, and revealing more about about ourselves and our society than we may have intended.
Note, for instance, that most shipping seems to entail male characters — as a society, we’re usually ok with girls and women loving each other and expressing that love in a way that is not romantic or sexual. Men on the other hand? We really don’t know what to do with that.
So we change it. We diminish and dismiss men’s capacity for loving each other — truly, deeply loving each other — and insist that such love can only find true expression in something akin to 21st century notions of romance and sexuality.
Once upon a time, in mid-19th century America, men wrote love letters to each other — honest to God, “I haven’t been able to stop thinking of our last hours spent together,” love letters to each other. Like, it was thing. You wrote to your friends and told them how you felt.
And true to late-20th/early 21st century form, letters such as these have led some to conclude that Abraham Lincoln himself was gay, despite copious evidence to the contrary — because why else would he express such tender affection for a man? Even though I presume that at least some of the men writing these letters were, in fact, expressing an emotion to which they were otherwise unable to give voice, sheer statistics would suggest that most of them weren’t. Which is to say: We weren’t always like this, America.
I do understand that some fan fic/shipping comes in response to the appalling dearth of LGBTQ love stories in our culture, and I guess it’s easier for me, a straight woman, to not want to validate the work that some people create around a love they’d like to see expressed. I will concede that.
But beyond that, mostly it just cheeses me off. You cannot tell me that a romantic, sexual relationship between Sam and Frodo would have been deeper or more real than the relationship we are told they had; you cannot tell me that Merlin’s love for Arthur was any less because they didn’t have sex.
I’m tired of telling boys and men that they cannot, may not love each other — frankly, shipping of this kind is little more than the flip-side of guys who yell “No homo!” after a big hug. There is nothing wrong with men falling in love with other men; there is also nothing wrong with men having loving friendships.
And with that, I have likely sealed my fate in the geek community, and so I bid you adieu. It was fun while it lasted. I’ll just be over here, reading my books.
Posted by emilylhauser on October 15, 2013
Americans have a complicated relationship with Islam. Most of us aren’t Muslim, and even the best-intentioned people often remain ill-informed, the gaps in our knowledge base filled almost exclusively in the wake of violent events.
Amir Ahmad Nasr’s My Isl@m comes as an important corrective, a welcome and important primary document that follows Nasr’s search for meaning and belonging within his own faith even as he uses new tools and technologies to reach out to the world beyond it.
Barely in his late 20s, Nasr has already traveled a remarkable path: Born in Sudan, he was raised in Qatar and later Malaysia, never fully at home in any of the countries to which his family took him — a Third Culture Kid, “a youngster struggling to assimilate elements of my parents’ culture and other cultures in which I was immersed into a third colorful culture of my own.”
The Islam practiced by his family was relaxed and inclusive by Qatari standards but traditionalist and strict compared to what Nasr found in Malaysia. Encouraged by his parents to build friendships across religious boundaries, but taught in school that infidels would suffer excruciating torture in the afterlife (alongside lax Muslims), his personal faith has moved from a violence-tinged fundamentalism to tortured agnosticism, to where he stands today: A Sufi as dedicated to mystic involvement with the divine as he is to reason and cold, hard facts.
The journey might not have been possible, however, were it not for Nasr’s access to and involvement with the Arab and Muslim blogospheres. It’s a world in which he came to play an increasingly visible role in the course of and aftermath to the revolutions of the Arab Spring, writing about and advocating for such subversive ideas as freedom of speech and interfaith dialogue. My Isl@m is, then, as much a testament to the crucial role that the global sharing of information plays in allowing cultural change as it is a tale of one young man’s evolution of thought.
It is not a perfect book. My Isl@m relies heavily on the reproduction of conversations as if verbatim, but these often read as stilted and expository rather than genuine, and later chapters in particular occasionally come across as a live blog of a graduate-school syllabus — interesting in parts, but not as interesting as watching Nasr live his life and synthesize new ideas into something entirely his own.
But there is also much to praise here: a powerful love of the many cultures to which the author belongs, an ability to praise and criticize at the same time, and perhaps most importantly, a strong and engaging voice that welcomes readers into Nasr’s ongoing search, even as he successfully sketches a telling picture of the range and diversity within the Arab and Muslim worlds (worlds which are not, by any stretch, one and the same).
“The sincere pursuit of Truth requires you to entertain the possibility that everything you believe to be ‘true’ or ‘valid’ may in fact be wrong,” he writes. “Everything. Your nationalism. Your religious beliefs. Your upbringing. Your unexamined convictions. Your story.”
Nasr’s ability to provide a clear, nuanced view of a rich and complex world, coupled with his willingness to unflinchingly expose his own halting path, make My Isl@m an absorbing read, one that should appeal not only to readers seeking to better understand Islam’s depths, but also anyone who’s struggled with the titanic clash of cultures that living in a hyperconnected world can bring — which is to say, a great many people, indeed.
Posted by emilylhauser on June 19, 2013
Having been raised by a librarian, moving in across the street from the library was somewhat analogous to moving in across the street from heaven. I can still remember exactly where the Betsy-Tacy-Tib books were located in the children’s section downstairs, and I can just about feel the industrial carpet through my shirt as I lay down to read whatever was next to them.
Throughout my life, going to the library has involved spending time with books for which I had not intended to reach out a hand. In fact I think that’s how I came on the BTT books in the first place; I know for a fact that I read some sizeable chunk of Maud Hart Lovelace’s oeuvre sitting with my back against that next-to-bottom shelf on which they could be found.
As you can imagine, this occasionally resulted in a trip to the library taking longer, and yielding a much bigger pile, than I’d intended, a fact that was equally true in college and graduate school, which you can further imagine didn’t always do wonders for my workload.
But it is how I discovered Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will and an entire shelf of feminist theory (which I can still see, in the library of the Naftali Building at Tel Aviv University), launching my transformation from an instinctive feminist to an educated one, so it’s not all bad — but on the other hand, let me tell you, when one allows oneself to get temporarily lost in random books in the stacks of Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, it can lead (you know: entirely theoretically) to getting actually, literally lost.
So why do I bring all of this up now?
Because the Internet.
The Internet, I have realized, is One Big (Chaotic) Library, and there you are, wandering down the stacks on your way to the “Israel/Palestine” section, or possibly the “Recipes” shelf, or mayhaps the “Interesting Stories About Scientific Advances That You Can Kind Of Understand If You Read Slowly” department, and boom! You stroll right past baby gorillas practicing thumping their chests! Or an obscure, unknown mathematician who solved an old, thorny problem about prime numbers! (And if you read slowly, you just know you can understand it!) Or a colorful and random appreciation of all things Eurovision!
And just like that, I’m sitting on the metaphorical floor of the library, enjoying baby gorillas or trying to remember what I know about prime numbers.
The up side, of course, is that I find so many utterly fascinating things in my meandering way. Our earliest ancestor! Space flight for regular folks! Everything the Vlogbrothers have ever done, alone or together!
The down side is that I find so many utterly fascinating things in my meandering way.
I mean: The day – still only 24 hours, right? If I’m wandering about the stacks, I’m not sitting on my couch reading the book that’s literally right there, waiting for me!
And I begin to feel a little unhinged when this sort of thing goes on for too long.
This is not the Internet’s fault. This is my fault. The Internet (and Twitter, and BuzzFeed, and Wired, and YouTube, and on and on) are all just tools that I haven’t learned how to use properly yet. I used to know how to keep going past that tantalizing spine in the not-where-I’m-supposed-to-be section of the library when I really had to. I have to teach myself again, is all, and teach myself that “I really have to” includes things that aren’t on deadline, but that are ultimately more important to me than the meandering bit. It’s a constant rejiggering of the hierarchy of importance, and a constant retooling of my skill set in that field. It requires a level of mindfulness that is, I’m guessing, fairly new to the human animal.
Thumbs up for rock n’ roll!
Posted by emilylhauser on May 22, 2013
About ten or eleven years ago, my friend Shaun came on a visit from London. He was reading Andrea Levy’s Fruit of the Lemon at the time, and he left it for me — and a decade or more later, I finally read it, this week. Levy won all kinds of accolades when Lemon was published back in 1999, and with good reason, because it’s a really lovely piece of work. It feels a little like two separate novels to me, but not so much as to make it any less lovely to read. If you have room on the pile of books next to your bed, I would highly recommend adding Fruit of the Lemon to it.
But this isn’t about that!
This is about the card that was left in the book, I have no idea by whom, and I have no idea when or where.
It’s not Shaun’s, and if memory serves (and it really might not) Shaun had gotten the book second-hand. But what is written on said card is simply so random — so much as if ripped from the story line of a different novel, possibly something like Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca — that I simply had to share.
Picture a plain white card, a little bigger than an index card. In the upper right corner, in fancy type face, you’ll see the words “Simply Ionian,” with a little travel stamp overlapping that reads “Simply Travel.” A quick Google search reveals that this must be a note card provided guests by Thomson Holiday’s Simply Travel division, specializing in “off-the-beaten-track holidays – characterful, one-off properties squirreled away on the road less travelled.”
Below what looks like a phone number and room location (“Panorama No. 7″), here’s what the card says:
Dear Dr. Winsor & Ms. Wheater & baby,
Welcome to Lefkas! I shall be around to visit you at 7:00 pm tomorrow evening. I would like to meet you at the ‘Café Del Mar’, which is situated as you bear left towards the beach from your apartments. I look forward to our meeting. Many thanks.
I ask you! Is this not a novel in the making?
If you write that novel, please thank me in the acknowledgements. You can list me under “Muse.”
Posted by emilylhauser on March 14, 2013
I am late to this, but The Unmaking of Israel (published 2011) is that one book that you need to read on Israel, if you read no others.
And if you read others, you should still put Unmaking at the top of the pile.
And if you read nothingnothing else?
At least read the first chapter. It’s only 14 pages, and it’s a brilliant little précis of the book’s entire argument.
Plus the book’s short, and honed razor-sharp, and a pleasure to read, to boot. (And look! It’s only $10.94 on Amazon!)
Gorenberg is an American-Israeli like myself, except he stayed. He’s been there for more than 30 years, is Orthodox, lives in Jerusalem, and he’s a very, very good writer — I often recommend his short-form work, and over on the right you’ll see a link to his blog, South Jerusalem. Before I go any further, though, a caveat: I agree with virtually every single word in Unmaking, and the only reason I say “virtually” is because I’m sure there’s some small point that I would have handled differently, because surely there has to be. I just can’t remember which one, just now.
So it’s possible that part of why I recommend this book so highly is simply because it is such a relief to read something that to me feels like the very finest of common sense. But even so, having gotten that out of the way: It’s a great book, with an excellent summary of Israeli history that manages the supposedly impossible task of respecting the Palestinian narrative as well right in that first chapter, and you really should read it.
Gorenberg’s bottom-line point is this: The settlements, and everything that led up to and is flowing from the settlements, is pulling apart the positive good that is Israel, and has been so doing since 1967 — and it’s not just Israel that’s suffering, but Judaism itself.
The trends I’ve introduced here did not grow out of one carefully premeditated policy. Some resulted from ignoring commonsense warnings about long-term rule of another people. Some are the completely unintended consequences of seemingly safe decisions, or of choices made to solve immediate problems. Many are the product of continuing to sanctify values that made sense before 1948, when Jews were seeking self-determination — and that make no sense in an independent state.
There’s an essential chapter about the utter lawlessness of the entire settlement enterprise — even by Israeli legal standards – and Gorenberg very clearly lays out the dangers of allowing a particular ideological group rise to the top of the military in a democratic state (especially when that group openly opposes government policy), as well as the danger in fostering the flowering of an entire sub-society, the ultra-Orthodox, that rejects the secular state, contributes nothing to it and consciously fails to prepare its children to ever contribute to it, all while depending on that state for its livelihood.
In his concluding chapter, Gorenberg writes:
For Israel to establish itself again as a liberal democracy, it must make three changes. First, it must end the settlement enterprise, end the occupation, and find a peaceful way to partition the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. Second, it must divorce state and synagogue — freeing the state from clericalism, and religion from the state. Third and most basically, it must graduate from being an ethnic movement to being a democratic state in which all citizens enjoy equality.
As someone who focuses almost exclusively on Gorenberg’s three-part #1, I must say I got a little bit of a frisson in my Israel-loving heart when I realized that hey now, he’s about to say that ending the occupation/settlements is not the be-all, end-all! Because of course it’s not. It’s the first, prerequisite step, but then there are these other messes that we’ll have to clean up.
In those final pages, Gorenberg presents a very, very reasonable plan (a series of very, very reasonable plans) to essentially save Israel from itself, and perhaps the greatest disagreement we have is in tone — merely by laying these things out, Gorenberg suggests their possibility, and I have become so disheartened that I have a hard time believing anymore in those possibilities. I would venture that Gorenberg probably has his bad days, too, though.
And even if it never happens, I believe there’s value in marking the place and saying “This is what might have been.”
At any rate: If you read nothing else about Israel, read Gershom Corenberg’s The Unmaking of Israel.
(And happy new year!)
Posted by emilylhauser on December 31, 2012
I do not watch Game of Thrones. I have not read, nor do I intend to read, the books.
“Huh?”, I hear you say, and not unreasonably. Given my specs (Minor Fantasy Geek, Reader Of Big Books, and Married To Same), one could very well ask what the hell is wrong with me.
I’ll tell you what the hell: Everything I’ve heard/read/seen about both the books and the series based upon them (and I did watch a few episodes in the first season, and have seen a few scenes since) has impressed very firmly upon me that this is entertainment predicated on sadism, depravity, and hopelessness, and that’s all I need to know.
Both book and TV show may very well be laden with other things, too — the husband can’t stop talking about George RR Martin’s writing, and I’ve seen enough of the HBO series to know that there’s a little something called acting going on, not to mention the fact that I am surely a reasonable audience for representations of rich fantasy worlds — but I honestly don’t care. I’m just curious enough to follow online discussions and sort out the answers to questions that puzzle me about the plot, but for real: There is enough sadism, depravity, and hopelessness in the real world. I honestly cannot understand why I would seek it out in my entertainment.
Which brings me back to why I never liked Seinfeld.
Sadism? What would you call humor based in the foreknowledge that every.single.thing will go wrong for these people? Depravity – well, just consider the spectacular dysfunction of the relationships. And of course hopelessness – see: Point A. Moreover, there was not a single character in all of Seinfeld with whom I would have wanted to spend 20 actual minutes of my actual life. Why on earth give all of them 20 minutes on a regular basis?
I can handle death, pain, dismemberment, disappointment. I am, after all, the daughter of a dead man and an Israeli, to boot — you cannot frighten me with your human frailty and whatnot!
But I suppose I need just a whiff of hope. A bit of wiggle room for the human spirit and flights of grace — even in fantasy, even in comedy. Game of Thrones, no — but Firefly and The Hunger Games, yes. Seinfeld, no — but WKRP and Sportsnight, yes. Is that too much to ask of my TV box?
Though looking at the above, it could be argued that I am, perhaps, due for a new sitcom in my life.
Hey, The Husband? I think I need to DVR Community and Parks and Rec.
Unless they make me sad, in which case I’ll stop.
‘Cause I have my day-job for that.
Posted by emilylhauser on April 23, 2012
“We accept the love we think we deserve.” ― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I’m hoping to post for real today, but I just saw that quote on Twitter (tweeted by no less a figure than Newark mayor Cory Booker, who I follow and if you’re on Twitter, you should, too) and it just punched me in the solar plexus.
For all the reasons that everyone else like me is not much into Valentine’s Day, I’m not much into Valentine’s Day: It’s a corporate construct, romance is not a matter of flowers and chocolate, why should one day be more about love than the other 364(5)… etc, etc, ad nauseum. At dinner, I’ll give my beloveds handmade cards in which I tell each of them something about them that I love, and we’ll decorate homemade heart-shaped brownies together. I don’t generally get much of anything from anyone on Valentine’s Day (though last night the husband did get me some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups), but I’m kind of cool with that — it’s my day to make my family heart-shaped brownies.
But that quote, man. That quote! That’s a thing to ring in your ears and shape the way you live your life. What kind of love do I think I deserve? What kind of love do I want my children to think they deserve? How do I live my life in a way that helps others know themselves worthy of genuine, affirming, soul-breathing love? And the people out there accepting something less than that — who taught them to think that’s all they deserve?
So: Happy Valentine’s Day! Please find someone you love and tell them so, in a way that only they can hear. Romance — or any of love’s many forms — is not, in fact, flowers and chocolates. It’s treating someone like you know that they deserve great love, even on those days when they’re not sure.
(And apparently now I have another book to read).
Posted by emilylhauser on February 14, 2012
I thought this:
was going to be the book-related thing that I most irrationally wanted to somehow recreate in my life, given the whole “I’m a Jew” thing, and all.
But it turns out it’s this:
(But only because this:
Posted by emilylhauser on January 10, 2012