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Fall on your knees

Ann-Marie Macdonald. Vintage Canada. 1996.

helsinki

Design Museum, Helsinki

At different points I wondered what drew me to it in the first place. Yes, it was a Giller Prize finalist in ’96, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in ’97 and the author is a woman. As a rule I read fiction by women only, about women’s lives. I’ve been called biased but it is what it is. In a good length of this one the main protagonist is a man. Who elopes with a child who he treats with contempt, escapes to war hoping to die there but doesn’t…I didn’t know how to feel about this one. But Ann-Marie Macdonald’s mastery of language stupefied me. She strings words together as a virtuoso composer would, using every instrument under the sun to achieve a most complex yet harmonious piece. Like Mozart, Beethoven, Bach rolled into one. At times I had to turn back pages to remember who the latest character was again – like a conductor she folds them in, calling in a new instrument into the orchestral production. The instrument fades out but not quite, remaining in the background until it is called in again and finally bows out. A masterpiece.

And then…

“Under a smoky streetlamp I stood face to face with my beloved and pricked my fingers against the diamond studs of her immaculate shirt front. Being tall, she slipped her hands naturally around my hips. And being bold I put my arms around hers and this time went inside and told her all the things I’d been longing to. Dark and sweet, the elixir of love is in her mouth. The more I drink, the more I remember all the things we’ve never done. I was a ghost until I touched you. […] She kissed me again and we didn’t stop for a long time, except to lean out of the light when we heard horses coming. We slipped into an alley and i pulled her shirt out from her pants. I pressed the center into her and she sighed. It made me flood from inside, the sweetest music. We were finally dancing. I slid my hands under and up her smooth sides, I wanted to be slow to savor but we couldn’t, she gripped me and moved under me…”

I finally got it, why i had selected this book. In the back of my head I remembered having seen it on a lesbian fiction list, on top of being an award winner. Women loving women is part of the plot. Actually the whole story is wrapped around this plot. Bewitching storytelling style, magical mastery of language. I had no idea Ann-Marie Macdonald, broadcast journalist – and an excellent one at that – is also a novelist, and queer! She’s upped the standards for me on what to accept in fiction writing.

(After writing this I discovered it was an Oprah Book Club selection in 2012 and is listed as one of Boxall’s 2006 “1001 books you must read before you die”)

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Posted by on June 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Long-distance loving

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I am grateful to have been loved
and to be loved now
and to be able to love,
because that liberates.
Love liberates.
It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego.
Love liberates.
-Maya Angelou

 

Writing that last post unexpectedly drew me into a space between melancholy and nostalgia, contentment and exasperation, as moments with my wife replayed in my head. Like our first dance together when her moves told me sexiness was her middle name. Or when she asked me to take a week off work, pack a bag and come with her; next I knew we were in Cuba – land of my Utopian feminist-Marxist self.

IMG_0788You put a spring in my step and make me feel ten feet tall, she told me. That was eight years ago. You brought sunshine into my life and make me feel deeply content, I replied. Our journey has been an adventure in living and loving. From exploring the mesmerizing Buddhist caves in Ajanta, and sunset dhow sailing in Lamu‘s magical mangrove channels, to cruising in the Baltic Sea.

090120121097Bliss interjected by everyday couple differences like her unrelenting pursuit of culinary delights in every meal while bran cereal morning, noon and night is fine with me. Or my need to plan out every detail while spontaneity is her third name. Or her disinterest with tidiness as I obsess – yes babe, i admit it – about arranging each item where it belongs the right way up.

In choosing to have it all, a relationship and career, we pay the price of separation. Thank you Skype and WhatsApp for making goodmorning and night  blow kiss emoticonpossible, yet the longing to touch, feel and be under the same roof remains.

Having a plan has made it work. A plan on when, where and how to meet next. On everyday life projects, home improvements or involvement in causes. On how to conjure jobs in the same country if not city.

For now, our choice remains to be long-distance partners, allies, lovers.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Private Deejay

turntable

She loves her electronic turntable. It’s not new but gives her as much pleasure now as when she bought it three years ago. She loves how the lights rise and fall, bright, dim and brighter again, dancing to the rhythm of the beats. All she needs is to hook it up to her laptop and surround sound speakers for the music to fill the room. She mixes like a pro, knows every song by heart and which one blends to the other. Most of all, she loves to play for her wife.

She sits by the turntable, waiting for the music to work it’s magic.

Turn off the lights
Light a candle

From the corner of her eye she sees her waltzing into the room. She lifts her head up and watches. The newcomer’s eyes are half-closed as she sways her hips, drinking in the music. Slowly, sensuously, she’s dancing towards her. Without a word she holds out her hand, inviting her to dance. She stands up and begins swaying with her. They dance their way to the middle of the room. Holding her hips she draws her close.

Heaven’s my destiny when I’m with you
The only place to be just you and me

Her hands slide upwards from her hips to her waist, rest there a moment, then back down round the hips and behind to her butt. She catches their reflection in the mirror across the room. She sees the way her dress flows with the music, with their moves, in perfect synchrony. She draws her closer.

And you’re like a rose that blooms in my garden
Innocent and sweet, my love you are

The feel of her, her breath, her scent make her heady. No, she mustn’t lose focus. She dances them back to the turntable. She sits down to queue more music. Her wife continues to dance. Time to pick up tempo, just a little. Set aside the slow jam for a while.

Moyo wangu ni mwepesi,
Nafanya vituko kama chizi,
Sura yako mzuri mama, Aaaah

Her wife looks at her, smiles, pauses and begins to chakacha. She picks up a kikoi from the sofa, ties it around her hips and moves. Quick, slow and in short staccato moves.

You are my African Queen, the girl of my dreams.
You take me where I’ve never been
You make my heart go ting-a-ling-a-ling, oh ahh

She picks up the pace. Back and forth, around and around, side to side.

Your love dey make my heart do yori yori
Nobody can love you the way I do

She makes her way to the turntable, twirling here, stopping there, three steps forward, one step back.

Na this thing make people dey say,
I don lose my sense my brain
But nobody can stop me from loving you,
am with you ma love love

Time to let the lyrics say what’s on her heart.

When your legs don’t work like they used to before
And I can’t sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?

Her wife now sits astride her, facing her. She closes her eyes and feels lips on hers. The sweet, familiar taste of her tongue.

Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are

Her hand slides under her dress. And finds, the time is right to make a baby. As she stands she lifts her to her feet, takes her hand and leads her upstairs to the bedroom.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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The token African

goats int eh villageThe invitation to deliver the presentation arrives unexpectedly, and with very little lead time to the event. Has the research to which she devoted almost two years attracted a following in this crowd as well? She devotes precious time to writing her speech and preparing a stunning Prezi presentation, asks for a second, third and fourth opinion on whether the Prezi animations are over the top. ‘You’ll be fine! Don’t worry. The animations will bring the statistics to life.”

She catches a taxi to the airport in the wee hours of the morning, just in time for her flight and barely makes the connection to the final destination.  “We’re so excited you’re here! Thank you so much for accepting the invitation”. The excitement is a bit excessive, she thinks. What are they expecting and how will she live up to it? No way to disappoint, she realizes, when the motivation for the invite reveals itself. It’s not because the meeting organizers believe the research findings are an amazing contribution to knowledge production. They were looking for someone ‘different’.

Not to be deflated, she takes the new revelations in stride. The big day arrives several hours later. She goes over the technical details with the technician who, despite the quizzical looks that yours truly here IS the keynote speaker, provides top-notch support. He hooks up her notebook computer to the projector and ensures her microphone is working fine.

The big moment arrives. After a pompous introduction she walks to the podium. The audience appears to be as quizzical as the technician, but willing to give her a chance. Some minutes into the presentation, she becomes aware of a shift in the room. No longer are they simply looking at her, they are actually listening and actively engaging with the ideas she is presenting.  The intellectual debate that ensues evidences a genuine grappling with the ideas. Forty-five minutes later, the moderator calls the discussion to a close with a comment “that doctorate was well-earned”.

Activists of all hues, what is your verdict?

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Dare to object to prejudice

dare to object to prejudice and injustice - Gloria Ray Karlmark

“Dare to object to prejudice and injustice” – Gloria Ray Karlmark.

Feminist standpoint epistemology theory has crystallized for me in a whole new light. I am no longer surprised that individuals, and indeed institutions, can profess to be ‘progressive’ yet remain unable to recognize systemic injustice. Standpoint epistemology explains to me the inability of an individual differently located to recognize identity-based oppression and discrimination occurring in their immediate environment. How does one explain to a different ‘other’ that talking through what the ‘other’ believes to be a ‘personality conflict’ will not lead to real or lasting transformation? Should one even try?

Well, this past week I resolved to follow Gloria Ray Karlmark’s exhortation. I dared to object to prejudice, to call discrimination by name and say yes, it was on the basis of racism, sexism and ageism, at the very least. To my surprise, my objections evoked yet another intersecting explanatory variable – a remnant colonial mentality; in a different era, my ‘oppressor’ (if we were to call him that) and myself would have had a colonizer/colonized, exploiter/exploited relation. A refreshing analysis indeed from a ‘different other’ but with whom I share the female and feminist identities. My proposal for a structural solution – to put in place an explicit institutional anti-discrimination policy – was well received and accepted.

There is hope that those in positions of epistemic privilege can help willing others in different social locations ‘see’ – perhaps not ‘understand’, but nevertheless ‘acknowledge’ – prejudice, oppression, discrimination – in hues they cannot experience.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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