Archives for category: Books

June is Pride month. As a kind of meditation, I read books by queer authors or stories about queer people. Some have been in my TBR stacks for ages, some newly published for the season.

Here’s what I read:

O’Keeffe: The Life of an American Legend (1993) an obsessive biography about the artist by Jeffrey Hogrefe.

Myriam Gurba’s Mean (2017) is described as part memoir, part ghost story, part true crime. And it is all art.

This cover, tho. Myriam Gurba, Mean (2017)

 

Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair that Shaped a First Lady (2016), an epistolary-based biography about Eleanor Roosevelt and reporter Lorena Hickok, and their found love letters by Susan Quinn.

My partner and I read David Sedaris’ new collection of essays, Calypso (2018), together, like total lesbians. I held the book; she made slight nods when it was time to turn the page.

For fun, I read When Katie Met Cassidy (2018), a novel love story, swooning around modern day NYC by Camille Perri.

And I’ve just started Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions, and Criticisms (2018) by Michelle Tea, whose perfect punk pitch of love and fight promises to help get me through July 4th this year.

Seeing this list–all together here–suddenly feels remarkable. These books represent such a spectrum of age, class, gender, and queerness; where they call home, spreading from North Carolina to LA, Brooklyn to New Mexico; their work exhibiting a variety of fineness. But also. For as fantastically diverse as they are in some respects, they are predominantly white authors writing about white characters or about white subjects.

My books are not usually so white. This is something I’m super intentional about. I read non-fiction (pretty much non-stop) because I’m interested in people and history. I deeply appreciate all of these books–adore that these stories are being shared–but it’s also true that there are so, so, so, so many stories yet to be supported into books.

The Feminist Press is hosting their Louise Meriwether First Book Prize for a debut work by a woman or non-binary author of color. Today is the last day to submit a manuscript. If you’re waiting for a sign, an omen, a flapping flag of some sort, may this be it.

The Betsy Hotel in South Beach, Miami is a bookish place. They have a library. Each room holds unique stacks. Bookshelves line the hallways.

On my way to the pool, a paperback, the color of a sand dune, caught my eye: O’Keeffe: The Life of an American Legend by Jeffrey Hogrefe. On the cover of this 1993 edition, Georgia O’Keeffe appears as ancient as the desert. She’s nearly blind, I’d learn.

Flipping, I discovered O’Keeffe made pottery. Late in life, when her eyesight failed and she could no longer paint, she worked in clay.

OK PotteryAt age 71, O’Keeffe learned to throw pottery from her assistant and companion, Juan Hamilton.

“O’Keeffe loved holding wet clay in her hands and then running her fingers over the walls of the finished products” the biographer wrote.

Ever the perfectionist, O’Keeffe was disappointed that her work was not as “fine as Hamilton’s smooth-walled vessels.”

Hamilton could make the clay “speak” O’Keeffe said and called him “one of our great talents,” Hogrefe shared.

I was taken with the story of these two artists. She followed his hands in clay; he created ceramics and sculpture inspired by shapes from her paintings.

dan-budnik-georgia-okeeffe-at-the-ghost-ranch-with-pots-by-juan-hamilton

Georgia O’Keeffe with pots by Juan Hamilton by Dan Budnik

While I’m prone to picking up books in hotels, I rarely finished them. But this one was different. I needed to read the full story of art being passed along. I offered to buy the book — the hotel has a partnership with the local, independently-owned Books & Books — but the concierge gifted it to me.

“We believe in supporting writing,” he said and mentioned their residency program.

The Betsy Hotel hosts a dedicated Writer’s Room for authors to come and write for a few days. Applications were opening soon.

“Did you know the owner’s father was writer?” he continued. His desk is in the Writing Room.

“Take a look at our website,” he encouraged. “Apply.”

Concluding my log of quotes from Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a LivingI EARLY DAYS and II THE DAILY GRIND–with final section of the book, III SOMEDAY.

It was Austin Kleon, in conversation with Manjula, who inspired the idea for this series. In “Selling Out” Austin also remarked: “What happens when the thing that kept you alive suddenly becomes the thing that literally keeps you alive? The thing that kept you spiritually alive now not only has to keep you spiritually alive, but also has to keep you financially alive? Like, literally, alive. Like, food in your mouth.”

 

“A Sort of Fairy Tale” Malinda Lo

“The fact is, financial necessity can be extremely clarifying. When your goal is to make enough money to pay the rent, writing loses a lot of its artistic mystique and becomes something much more mundane: a job. Thinking of writing as a job made the countless uncertainties that come with being a writer manageable. It gave me a rubric by which to measure my success. But without financial need, I found it difficult to continue thinking of writing as my job. And if I didn’t need to write for money, why was I writing?”

 

“FAQ: How to Buy a HomeMallory Ortberg

“But it is important to acknowledge the distinction between being broke and being poor.”

 

From “Diversity is Not Enough” by Daniel José Older (click to expand)

 

“Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing” Daniel José Older

The question industry professionals need to ask themselves is: How can I use my position to help create a literary world that is diverse, equitable, and doesn’t just represent the same segment of society it always has since its inception?”

 

“Worth” Jennifer Weiner

“Would I have taken the deal, knowing what it meant? In the business of being an author, is it better to be broke but respectable than it is to be rich but dismissed? And why does it even matter? I’ve been asked, more than once—usually by one of the writers on the broke-but-respectable side of things, unpublished or underpublished or underappreciated, well-reviewed but not well-read, one who can’t imagine that it’s anything other than heaven on the other side of the fence. You’ve got money. What could be wrong? Who cares what people are saying. Just laugh all the way to the bank!

I can’t answer them.”

 

“The If of It: Lunatic Independence in Nine Easy Steps” Laura Goode

Preliminary research revealed no studio would acquire or produce a screenplay about three diverse women trying to discover America and themselves through politics and sex.”

 

I deeply appreciated this book, found it invaluable. Much gratitude to Manjula Martin for creating this compendium that kept it real about money and art and publishing but also most notably enriched the conversation about class.

For sure, I’ll return to the thoughts of Colin Dickey, Kiese Laymon, Leslie Jamison, Malinda Lo, Daniel José Older, and Laura Goode, time and time again, like found treasure.

xx

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