Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Queering breastfeeding illumines alternative arrangements (Longhurst 2008). Children can procure milk from a variety of sources, including wet nurses, certain animal species, and even males. Yes, males possess mammary glands and have an underdeveloped, physiological capability to lactate (Diamond 1995; Giles 2003:185–197; Longhurst 2008:107–109). Modern medical treatments are often a stimulus for male lactation, but starvation and nipple stimulation are also catalysts (Bartlett 2002:375). That male lactation is natural, as well as awareness that biological maternity does not necessitate maternal responsibility, considerably queers our understanding of norms surrounding breastfeeding practices. While unusual, male lactation is worthy of consideration. “Showing other alternatives are thinkable by no means debunks our current beliefs,” historian of science Lorraine Daston remarks, “it only exposes as fraudulent the absolute authority with which we think them” (Conkey 1997:197).
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Congrats to us! Man, we just keep getting better-looking together!
Last night, I finally made it somewhere I've been meaning to go for years: The Asian American Writers' Workshop. AAWW has always had an interesting array of readings and schmoozy literary events, but it seems the bar has been raised even higher with the introduction of a beer sponsor (YAY for whatever Asian beer that was, so superdelicious, esp. at the super suggested donation price of $3)--BUT it must be noted that, before last night, I never managed to get my ass in gear enough to get there by the 7pm start time for the readings. Oh, I read the e-mail newsletters ... and oh, I penciled in grand plans to attend many a reading ... but oh, I never made it out of the apartment in time.
Last night, though ... last night I managed.
Vermont College of Fine Arts professor (and now faculty chair of the MFA in Writing, congrats) Xu Xi was reading, and finally it was enough. Xu Xi was my very first VCFA workshop leader; I've enjoyed her meticulous feedback on my work, her warmth and openness in welcoming new students, and the voice of her own work, whether fiction or essay.
In addition, Xu Xi was paired with another writer whose work I was yet unfamiliar with--a man named Joe Tsujimoto--in a thematic evening centering on "the power of place."
If those elements--an admired professor + meditations on place/belonging/home--didn't already have my name written all over them . . . well, the night got stranger and better, still.
Xu Xi read from her gorgeous new book of essays, Evanescent Isles: From My City-Village.
Then, it turns out Joe Tsujimoto is a Japanese American fellow who was born and raised in New York . . . but who sauntered up to the stage wearing an aloha shirt. My interest was piqued. He walked like a local (of Hawai'i) man, he looked like a local man, he had the mannerisms of a local man . . . and then he opened his mouth and it was New York, but it was New York inflected by something else, a different accent, and a different cadence, something not so measured you could call it rhythm, something more full of life and mindful energy, something improv . . . something like jazz. It probably says something that I didn't realize until I Googled him that the book from which he read was prose not poetry. I could have listened to him read for hours. And, actually, his stories were long enough that to read aloud his entire book might have taken hours ... though I don't mean this at all as a slight of any sort. His stories were epic, they were meandering, they were mini-odysseys through fascinating lives.
Equally fascinating is his life, which, to just take its starting and present points, is pretty much the reverse trajectory of my own. People always want to know how I could grow up in Hawai'i and end up in New York; I wonder if Joe ever gets a variation--how could he grow up in New York and end up in Hawai'i? Implied in the question is some sense that the two places are so utterly night and day that how could it possibly make sense that a person could find himself or herself at home in both. People can't believe it, but it happens all the time. In fact it makes perfect sense. Life is long, and life without change in it is even longer ... and more boring, too.
When the readings were over, I started to try to angle my way in to say hello to Xu Xi, who I am hoping to land as an advisor for next semester--the thesis semester. But I was happily waylaid by another familiar face: Luis Francia, AAWW board member and my former Sarah Lawrence professor of Asian American Literature.
And, as if things could get any better after all of that, next thing I know I'm at Mandoo Bar, happily esconsed at a large table with Xu Xi, Luis Francia, two of my VCFA classmates, another young woman who just graduated from Amherst, and a friend of Xu Xi's. We were later joined by two other friends, including AAWW Executive Director Ken Chen.
Ok, I'll admit it: Sometimes it's really worth getting out of your pajamas and going into the city.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
And you know what, it was kind of the occasion of Sidewalk Monkey and Jam Guy’s wedding that got
me to finally do it ... I mean, isn't that—aren’t they—exactly where we all hope to land? At some compromise between where we came from and where we've been and where we're headed. I don't really mean physically/geographically (although for me that is also true), I mean internally, like who we are, our identities, our people connections and so forth. It’s a reminder that I can have both, that I don’t have to choose, I can tangle together with the people who have always been there, always meant so much, who raised me into the possibilities of the person I am becoming, but that doesn’t mean I can’t also fling myself wide and far, meet other persons and go other places who/that will further shape me, that I don’t have to lose one to gain the other, that I can be a person balanced between these things. In fact, that is exactly what it is about: balance. Balance in one’s life. Settling down without settling. Having an adventure-filled life even with the more anchoring elements, like marriage and someday children and someday even further a mortgage (Dear Mr. President: Please fix the economy or I will rent until I die. Love, Mayumi). Realizing that I didn’t “try out” the east coast, and then “try out” the west coast, and then try to determine where between those two and Hawaii I really belong … no, all those chapters just enabled a Newer, Improved, More Realized me, a me that has lived those lives and now lives another, which will just go on to enable another me, down the line. Mayumi 5.0, yo—less corruptions, less reboots, more battery life—watch out: coming to a year near you. It is also literally about those places that formed me. Hawai’i, clung to as fiercely as family, either a lei or a noose around my neck, but in any case ever in my heart, the place I will always mean when I say the word “home,” no matter where I am living and no matter if I never move back. New York, hotchacha lover but neurotic to the bone; New York who I have fallen out of love with, to be frank, but with whom I’d like to stay friends and where I’ve funnily enough found myself living yet again. And San Francisco, you who I warmed to at glacial speed and temperature, but where I found, after I stopped worrying so much about where I belonged, that I belonged--for a time, anyway.
Balance. Balance. Balance. Finding somewhere that will nurture your dreams and values and worldview and aesthetic. Divining the middle point between your expectations of yourself versus others’ expectations of you. Bridging the distance between where you are in life versus where you want so badly to be. And realizing that somewhere is not a zip code, it’s not a thing you can Google map. It’s internal; it’s in your head; it’s in your heart; it’s learning to grow the fuck up in your own life so that you can hold your head tall, walk proud, and be balanced in your SKIN. And when you get there, you just know it. The drama and silliness and pettiness and all that crap you spent so much goddamn energy worrying about just aren’t worth it anymore. You stop cross-examining yourself.
As a certain wise friend once said, “Why not expect to get the life you want?”**
Why not, indeed.And so, roots and wings, my friends.