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The Headscarf--Revisioned

I really love the way this discussion about the hijab is continuing to evolve in the midst of The Obama Transition.

From Huff Post:

As always, the nexus of the clash between the West and Islam is the role of women. The Turkish sociologist Nilufer Golë has put her finger somewhat provocatively on precisely what secularists fear might be taken away, but also on what Muslim women are gaining.

"In contrast with the West," she has written, "where the public sphere was first formed by the bourgeoisie and excluded the working class and women, in the Muslim context of modernity women have been the makers of public space. In the Muslim context, the existence of democratic public space depends on the social encounter between the sexes and on the eroticization of the public sphere."

The wearing of the headscarf in universities -- which the AKP sought to allow -- is the flash point of the conflict. To be sure, the headscarf issue signals changing private and public distinctions through the re-entry of religion into the public arena of modern Turkey. But since headscarf proponents argue that it will enhance the opportunities of women in higher education, it also serves as a critique of the idea that only secularism equals modernity.

"Women proponents of the headscarf distance themselves from secular models of feminist emancipation," Gole argues, "but they also seek autonomy from male interpretations of Islamic precepts. They want access to secular education so they can follow new paths in life that don't conform to traditional gender roles, yet they also seek to fashion a new pious self. They are searching for ways to become Muslim and modern at the same time, transforming both."

In short, the established meaning of Islamic veiling is undergoing a radical transformation -- from a symbol of Muslim female submission and seclusion in the private sphere to a badge of public, assertive Muslim womanhood. For Gole, this sign of stigma and inferiority is in the process of being inverted into a sign of empowerment and prestige.

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April 7th, 2009

Soul Sister Number One: Danielle Laporte

Inspiring.

April 5th, 2009

OBHF #1 Top Shelf Pick in SF Chronicle

One Big Happy Family #1Top Shelf Non-fiction pic in San Fancisco Chronicle. Such a huge blessing. Thanks everyone. For supporting families--and me.

Nonfiction

One Big Happy Family, by Rebecca Walker: A fascinating collection of essays on the varieties of the American family.

Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: A Collection of Kids' Letters to President Obama, edited by Jory John: We can always depend on children to be both funny and truthful. In paperback.

Shakespeare Wrote for Money, by Nick Hornby: The author chronicles his battle between "books bought" versus "books read." Brilliant. In paperback.

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, by George Johnson: Johnson illustrates how science, art and beauty can occasionally be the same thing. In paperback.

Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea, by Alice Waters: A chronicle of the transformation of one abandoned plot of land at a Berkeley public school into the Edible Schoolyard - a model for institutions everywhere.

This article appeared on page J - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle

April 4th, 2009

Today

April 1st, 2009

One Big Happy Family chosen a Cool Mom Pick. Cool.

Nice, nice, nice from our friends over at Cool Mom Picks:

"I may have a family that looks like we come from a 1950s-era sitcom, complete with curly-haired children and a husband who carries a briefcase, but ours isn't the only recipe for domestic bliss.

Acclaimed writer and activist Rebecca Walker delves into the details of modern family units in her new anthology, One Big Happy Family. These eye-opening essays helped me more fully appreciate the commitment that every family makes to staying together.  In fact, I'd say that I've got it pretty easy by comparison.


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Buy One Big Happy Family at Amazon.com

March 30th, 2009

What Makes an Artist

Stamina. Audacity. Courage. 

March 26th, 2009

Die Mommy Die: Women talking about babies in workplace, from ELLE

Interesting piece about women waxing rhapsodic about motherhood at the office and how it affects non-moms and moms who don't necessarily think motherhood is the beginning and end of the world. My two cents on second page and nice mention of OBHF:

By Nancy Hass

Arranging the interview took months of patient pleading with the CEO’s staff, and now that I’ve been waiting for almost an hour in the chief’s vast beige and teak inner office, one thought keeps running through my head: She better be as brilliant as everyone says.

Ten minutes later, the CEO walks through the door, smoothing her pantsuit and flashing a purposefully desperate smile. “I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting,” she says, plopping down in the sleek armchair next to me as I reach out to shake her hand, “but my nine-year-old had a bad night because of a test today—throwing up and everything—and she just called in to say she thinks she aced it. Everything is so dramatic with that one; all her stress goes right to her stomach.”

I try to cut her off with a tight grin, barely enough to pass as polite. I don’t like where this is going.

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March 25th, 2009

One Big Happy Family on the Marc Steiner show

Best part of this interview with the wonderfully sensitive and smart Marc Steiner are the call-ins. Always my favorite, but this time especially good: a woman called in about her stay at home husband/dad and facing family ridicule. Another caller wanted to know how I advocated choice within family configurations when God clearly states His wish for nuclear families in the Bible.
 

Buy the book

March 23rd, 2009

It's a Family Affair: One Big Happy Family in CLUTCH

It's always strange reading what people write about me. To see myself through their eyes. Sometimes it's heartbreaking. Sometimes it's enlightening. Sometimes it makes me think about how I said something or what I really want people to understand.

This is an interesting piece by Zettler Clay on One Big Happy Family on Clutch today. I'm pondering how I feel about this profile. I don't think of myself as an "inveterate zealot," but I feel I should at least consider the possibility. 

I also don't think I've spent thirty-nine years seeking my mother's attention, but perhaps that's what it looks like to others. Alas--this profile is thought provoking. Quixotic, natch. 

What do you think? 

An excerpt:

"But who, pray tell, is Rebecca Walker?

She is a woman who has spent a good part of her 39 years on earth seeking her mother’s elusive approval. She’s the Jewish-Nubian who spent considerable parts of her childhood being shuffled from coast-to-coast, enduring ridicule from classmates because of her lineage and looks, while imbibing the rich customs of Jews and African-Americans alike. She is a woman who attended Yale University, graduated cum laude, wrote several treatises, books and articles, all while haunted by the memory of a lost baby and the fear of not being able to have another one.

She is, in essence, a woman of omnivorous tastes; a counterculture spokesperson and literary commuter who is still ultimately seeking her halcyon environment, if not understanding, of how to make the world a better place. A quixotic being, but certainly not apathetic."

My, my.

Read More

Buy the book 

March 23rd, 2009

Living the Divine Masculine, an Interview with Shantam Nityama, Sexual Healer

I conducted this interview a few years back for What Makes a Man: 22 Writers Imagine the Future where you can listen to the full audio, but it seems relevant for One Big Happy Family, too.

When I did the interview for KPFA in Berkeley, I was exploring the way men can, through supporting women, support a part of themselves. Nityama has taken this to an incredibly dynamic place, and spends his life offering sessions of sexual healing to women

This version is from the site Extatica.

RW: Tell me a little bit about what you do and how you came into this work.

SN: It is sex that brings us onto the planet. We must realize that if we have difficulty with the primal energy that brought us here, then we are going to be mired in self-hatred and be confused about the very thing that has brought us into being.

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March 21st, 2009

My Body, My Butoh

Brilliant short video about Butoh, one my favorite forms of modern dance. Butoh was born in Japan after the atomic blasts. It explores death, destruction, resurrection, presence, purity, horror, the sublime, beauty, the power of a simple gesture, and more.

I'm a huge fan of Sankai Juku, one of the most respected and revered Butoh companies in the world, mentioned in this film. The first time I saw them, with a beloved choreographer friend, I was struck dumb. I was in awe, transported. Butoh changed my life. It gave me something that has never left.

March 17th, 2009

Mixed Chicks Chat, Interview with Heidi Durrow and Fanshen Cox

I share this hour-long interview (which I did from the Costco parking lot!) with Louie Gong, President of Maven. I come in after first half-hour--and have a lot of fun with the chicks.

We talk Buddhism, coming to the end of identity, and much more--all while trucks and cars and huge shopping carts careen past. I love these chicks. We met when they invited me to give the inaugural opening keynote at their baby, the Mixed Roots Film and Literature Festival in Los Angeles. 

Listen.

 

March 15th, 2009

Da Kine!

I love this! Living in Hawaii, I can't tell you how close to home this hits.

March 13th, 2009

Howard Zinn on Obama, from Alternet

Excerpt of Liliana Segura's fascinating interview with dear family friend and ultimate power-to-the-people historian, Howard Zinn. Thoughts? 

From Alternet

LS: What do you think about Obama and the fact that he's following the trajectory of the Bush administration with the whole "war on terror"? You endorsed him, right?

Howard Zinn: Endorsed Obama? (Laughs.) Yes -- I endorsed Obama, I wanted him to win. I wanted Bush and Cheney out of there. I wanted change -- and the truth is I didn't have much choice. It was Bush or Obama. I chose Obama. And, in fact, I was hopeful. Not too hopeful, because I know something about American history. I know how much hope has resided in presidents, and I'm aware that presidents are political animals. I'm very much aware that Lincoln was a policitian and Roosevelt was a politician and, in fact, you might say the theme of my work is that we cannot depend on people in the White House. We can depend on people picketing the White House. So my attitude towards Obama has been watchful from the beginning in the sense that, okay, it's good to have Obama in there, I'm glad that he aroused a lot of people getting people involved in politics -- now I hope these people who have been aroused and energized will use that energy to push Obama in a direction different from the one he seems to be going in right now.

LS: What do you think about the comparisons between Obama and Roosevelt that came up following the election?

Howard Zinn: It's interesting, you know, if Langston Hughes were around, we could have a poem, "Waiting on Obama." But the difference is, we shouldn't be waiting on Obama. We should be informing Obama that we expect more from him than he has done so far. Now, he has done some things that have moved in the right direction on domestic policy. In terms of the federal government taking a more aggressive stand in creating jobs, calling for a tax policy that will be directed at taking money from the richest one percent of the population, and easing the tax burden on other people, some of the initiatives he's taken have been good.

But his domestic policies are not bold enough. He is still doing too much through the market system, through private enterprise. For instance, right now he is having a a big conference with people who are giving him advice on the health system. But he has not shown an inclination to do what the public really wants and what is absolutely neeeded, and that is to institute a government-financed health system which will bypass the insurance companies -- the kind of system they have in Canada, and France, Italy, New Zealand. He's not shown the boldness necessary in certain domestic programs, even though as I say, he's moving little bit at a time in the right direction.

The economic situation is so bad. Although it's not as bad as it was in 1932, it's bad enough that it calls for bolder domestic measures. It calls for the government to institute, as Roosevelt did in his first couple years, a huge jobs program. The federal government under Roosevelt gave jobs to six million people; if you did it proporational to population, Obama would be creating a jobs program that would give jobs to ten million peope. He's very far from that. If he were bold enough, he would be instituting a federal arts program -- one of the very best things that came out of the New Deal -- where artists and musicians and writers and poets would be given jobs by the government to do the things they wanted to do. These are people who are bypassed by the market system. Artists struggle and they have to take other meanigless jobs in order to continue to do their art. And that's all, as I said, with his domestic policy.

With his foreign policy, unfortunately, he shows no signs of departing from the traditional militarism of the Democratic and Republican parties. The idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan is disastrous, really absurd. I mean, almost as soon as he came into office he sent missiles into Pakistan. Civilians were killed. The whole tone of foreign policy, adding more soldiers, leaving 50,000 in Iraq even after withdrawing them in 16 months, all of this is very bad. And, therefore, he's going to need a great big push -- protest, really. He's going to need demonstrations and protest and letters and petitions. He's going to have to face the kind of agitation that Roosevelt faced when he came into office.

Full interview 

March 12th, 2009

Today, in Waikiki

Walking around Waikiki today, I felt I was inside of a postcard, or somehow trying to be inside of one. It was what it was supposed to be, this Waikiki, and yet it was all completely contrived. It was once what it was, but it was now trying to be what it was. It succeeded, but left me wondering if it ever existed in the first place.
 
This excerpt from White Noise by Don Delillo summed up my feelings perfectly:

"Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the signs started appearing.

THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA.

We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides -- pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.

"No one sees the barn," he said finally.

A long silence followed.

"Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn."

He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.

We're not here to capture an image, we're here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies."

There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.

"Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We've agreed to be part of a collective perception. It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism."

Another silence ensued.

"They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said."

March 7th, 2009