Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Our First Hater Review!!

Hey everyone!!

I have so much to write about the incredible events that went on in San Francisco- but first, GOOD NEWS!! The book has received it's first Bad Review!! It's in L Magazine!! Check it out here-

But more importantly, read this incredibly eloquent response from a LTT Reader that I received on the book's e-mail. I was really impressed by the reader's spot on comeback on what the L Reviewer said. This is less self-promotion, as it is simply an interesting discussion that I think could be begun by both the review and the response. Read on!!

"Hey Sabrina- I really enjoyed the book and events I went to surrounding it. I thought I'd pass along this letter I wrote in response to the recent review in l magazine. . ."

Dear Ms. Frank,

I feel like you’ve completely missed the point in your review of Live Through This: On Creativity and Self Destruction. Good for you that you got over your anorexia so completely that you can now minimize the experience and pass it off as a pickup line. However, for many of us, self destructive actions are experiences that we don’t look back on and belittle. More so, when we witness our sisters and daughters repeating patterns of self destruction, instead of passing it off as a trend, we try to do something about it.

I’ve read Live Through This and also attended a book reading event, and I applaud the authors and editor for creating an empowering space to discuss self-destructive experiences. This book validates the energy and passion that often fuels self destruction, and also critiques it as misplaced power, power that the writers of the book were able to redirect into their artistic passion. These women were able to find and harness their individual power and strength, and they don’t pretend that their masochism didn’t play a role in that search. They acknowledge and ascend it.

By spotlighting stories of strength and success, a helpful story is told, so rare in a culture that preys on the voyeuristic opportunities to glorify female failure. I felt that this was the first book I’ve read on the subject that did not “revel in every gory detail of my gender’s masochistic leaning.”

It’s disappointing that you missed this distinction.

Brooklyn , NY

Now, I totally agree with this response, but tell me. . .what do YOU think?


Thursday, June 5, 2008

In the air - Wheeeeeeeee!!!!!!!

I’m still on the airplane now, but I had to open a new page and start a new entry because the old one really needed it’s own space to breathe. Spekaing of space, I’m traveling high over a gorgeous sea of clouds, puffy, white and perfect. My girlfriend would know what type of clouds these are- humunculous or cumlumcouscousc or whatev. I specify them as ‘pretty’.

I wanted to write a separate blog post about the rest of my time in Chicago- especially about the event at Women and Children’s First- one of the best bookstores in the city. Besides the fact that it is one of the few actual feminist bookstores will in existence in this nation of Borders and Barnes and Nobles, it was my bookstore in Chicago- the one I would walk into even when I didn’t have money to spend, just so I could feel stronger by the walls that surrounded me. Feminist bookstores- I’m pro.

Anyway- I was back in Chi-town, my home town (actually, I’m from the suburbs of Chicago- that’s right- Elk Grove Village, bitches. All the Elk in da haus, holla). But I lived in Chicago for awhile, dare I say- during my ‘formative years’ and Clark Street was a vein of the city that I traveled so frequently, it really was my entrance into the heart of Chicago. I walked around in Andersonville, the Swedish/Lesbian neighborhood (no kidding) just to remember I was home, and crossing the street- what else do I see but an old man in his blues convertible, top down, pumping out the song ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ until I want to burst out with love and song but I don’t I just smile real big and walk into my favorite café- Kopi Café where I take a moment to have Mexican latte and write a few postcards. Then, off to Women and Children’s First- where they actually have a little sign that says ‘LIVE TONIGHT – SABRINA CHAPADJIEV 7:30’. I literally stop in my tracks when I see that. And start laughing. It’s so hilarious and surreal, having my name in big letters like that where any Swede or Lesbian might walk by and see it. I feel like I have reached the very bottom of fame. It was awesome.

Inside, I meet Megan Tracey- the incredible actress who co-founded Chicago’s About Face Theatre- a theatre for queer and trans youth in Chicago. About Face is an amazing institution, and I didn’t realize that Cin Salach had set me up with it’s founder. I’m in awe and she’s hot so the night’s got a great start on it. Soon after, I see Cin Salach- great spoken word siren, music maker, and brand new mama Cin!! I knew Cin ten years ago when I studied in Chicago for a semester after I saw her perform at the CURIOUS THEATRE BRANCH (best theatre in Chicago. So good, they don’t even care what you think.) Cin and Patricia Smith are good friends, so Patricia recommended Cin to read and it was a perfect fit.

And then finally, met Stephanie Howell. The indominatable Stephanie Howell. It was incredible. We’d had a few heart-wrenching, tear-jerking conversations via phone about the edits on her piece, and so it felt so incredible to finally meet her.

So it was me, Megan, Stephanie and Cin and we f-in rocked the house. Boo-yah, lesbian Swedes- ‘Live Through This’ in da HOUSE!

(what planet am I from?)

the place was jam-packed, my parents were there with their friends, old Chicago friends of mine were there, old friends from college showed up because they saw the listing in TimeOUT and then the rest just came because of their Women and Children’s newsletter.

It was an incredible reading. I read from the intro, Megan read – no- she interpreted ‘Silent Body, Speaking Body’ the piece by Anonymous- bringing such a beautiful presence to it, much different from Julia Allison’s reading at KGB- which was very still and haunting. Megan’s was very matter of fact, as if she was a teacher herself (which she is) yet the careful touch of Anonymous’s words shone through and the piece rang out like a bell above a frozen lake.

Stephanie went next. Holy SHITE!! HO-LEE-SHEE-ITEE!! Listen, I told you I had just met Stephanie, so you must have intuited that I had no idea how she’d be as a performer. You’re exactly right- I had NO Idea! (God, you’re good). But from the first word she uttered. . .hell, no- before the first word. Before she inhaled, as she looked straight out into the audience and smiled, I felt a bit like I was about to witness an something very amazing. And I was. For those of you who do not know Stephanie Howell- her reading was both hilarious, tender, painful and fierce. We laughed, oh, how we laughed – laughed with Stephanie as she talked about her fatness. And then we cried with her, and then we were silent, and then enraged, and then full of desire/power/strength as she spoke her story.

She read a heavily edited version of her piece, but did end with ‘Today I weighed myself- 238 fabulous pounds’. However, after she said that – she went on to tell us that, at the end of herself writing that piece, that was the truth- that was how much she weighed at the end of writing that piece. But ever since then, she’s decided to not weigh herself any longer. Now she is just trusting that she is the right weight. She is giving herself the pleasure, the respect of not weighing herself. And it’s hard- it’s hard for her. But that’s where she is now.

Finally, Cin went up to read Patricia Smith’s piece, “A Little Hell Breaks Loose”. Again, Cin and Patricia are old friends- they were both heavy into the spoken word scene, both were featured on the same cd where it was them and two guys reading, and are seemingly life-long friends. Their actual voices are very different. However, Cin is one of the few people who can handle Patricia’s language. She reinterprets with a softer, but just as resonate strength, and allows the story to unfold before your eyes. She’s amazing.

Okay, I want to write more, but we’re landing now, so I have to get off this thing before the Diva-licious stewardess dude gives me the arched eyebrow again.

Here I LaGuardia Go.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tarmac blog 1.

On American Airlines now, flight I don’t know. I should arrive 2:45 in New York, and then I’m going to pass the fuck out. It’s been such an incredible, unstoppable trip= this one to Chicago- my hometown. I feel like I have to tell you all about it.

First off, though- have to say that I’m listening to Tegan and Sara. Sara read the book and offered a sentence or two so we could put it on the back, and also offered to do an e-mail blast on the book to her myspace friends. You guys don’t need to know this- the exact details of this, but it’s important for a certain reason. It’s important because she’s an incredible artist who offered her time up and her resources to do something she felt would be helpful to other women. In fact, all of the authors, and even myself, basically worked our asses off for a laughable amount of money for this book. Really, a pittance. If I told you, you wouldn’t believe it. And all of the women in this book opened some of the most private chapters of their lives, some of the most difficult experiences tey’ve survived- they’ve truly exposed themselves only for the desire to reach out to you. To help. To hope that it helps. If you don’t call that love, I don’t know what is. So even though sometimes you might feel all alone and you might feel all like you just bought something else. . .know that the reservoir of power and love that the women that came together to put this book out is for you. For you specifically. Don’t be afraid to take it. And don’t be afraid to find it in yourself.

I want to tell you guys about my plane trip to Chicago, because it was really incredible. Well, in fact- it was not. It was a normal flight, where we ended up waiting on the plane for two hours and then finally taking off. But what transpired between the woman who sat next to me on the plane and I was incredible.

As I approached 25A, I already started looking for my seatmate. And from far away, I saw her. She was a larger woman, and she, in fact- did have to raise the armrest between us to sit down, and I could tell- even from far away- she was scared as hell at who her seatmate would be. Would they be an asshole and bitch her out about her weight in front of everyone. Would they possibly be large themselves and then both would have to endure a physically uncomfortable ride? I could feel she was tense, and nervous, and so I smiled as I pointed out that I would be sitting next to her.

As I settled into my seat- I gave her another quick smile, and then turned to my magazine. I didn’t feel like talking. She opened a SELF magazine- one of those magazines that tell you 35 WAYS TO LOSE THOSE WINTER POUNDS!! SHED THAT FLABBY ASS, 5 WOMEN TELL YOU HOW TO STICK TO YOUR DIET!! One of those magazines. I remembered when I read those magazines. When I read them endlessly. They were delicious, and safe, and they proved to me that I was already taking care of myself just by buying them. That’s capitalism, folks. You feel you need to buy something to prove to yourself you’re doing something. External change. (This from someone who’s pushing a book. I should shut up.) But the things about those magazines is that make you feel like you’re not doing enough. You know you SHOULD drink carrot juice, but then you need a juicer. You read stories about women who’ve lost a trillion pounds, and you think- I can’t even lose five, how can I be so weak? The comparisons between your real life and what is a heavily edited and forcibly happy story is never good.

Anyhoo- she’s reading SELF. I’m reading some other trashy mag, I’m sure, and here we are- total strangers, our thighs touching. We don’t pull away from the gate, and the minutes walk on by and my seatmate puts her magazine away and falls asleep. A half an hour passes. Another. Then another. I call my dad to tell him we’ll be late. The phone call wakes her up and she realizes she’s been sleeping over an hour and we’re still at the gate. I get off the phone and start speaking towards the window, scrutinizing the long line of planes that haven’t moved in a long time.

“I haven’t seen a plane take off in awhile.” I said.

“Didn’t the pilot say that there were over 30 planes before us that needed to take off?”

“Yup- and not-a-one has gone.”

We settled into the communal silence brought by our mutual scrutiny of the tarmak. Nada. A slow, conversation began. The type that you have with a stranger. You begin with the external. The wind, the weather, the rain, and the next thing you know, you’re talking about your lives, your struggles and the dreams you never fulfilled. The things you’ll say to a stranger are often things you would not tell someone you love, sometimes they’re things you almost never even admit to yourself.

It moved to the personal as she asked why I was going to Chicago. I mentioned that I was visiting my family, but also told her about the book. She asked more about it, and so I pulled the book out- the wonderful copy I have where I’m collecting the signatures from all the contributors as I go and meet them in our readings. She flipped through the art work, stunned, like most by Fly’s piece. Quietly intrigued by Beth and Annie’s piece. We turned to ‘Weight Watcher’ by Stephanie Howell. A shift occurred in her body as I started speaking about it. About Stephanie’s struggle, about Stephanie’s amazing reversal of shame into power. About weight as a whole.

“As you can tell,” she said, a bit shyly, “I have my own problems with weight.” She was almost embarrassed about it. She held up her copy of SELF, I’m really trying, I know I should get a handle on it.

I don’t remember how we talked through to the next point, but the next point was that she had recently lost her sister to a seven year battle with cancer. She worked in Chicago, and her sister lived three and a half hours away, and every other weekend, she would go and take care of her. From far away, she took count and hold of her prescriptions, her medications. Towards the end, she cut her toe-nails. She stayed with her when she vomited green bile. At one point, her sister said- ‘Listen, I haven’t been able to trim down there in awhile and it’s growing like a jungle’, so in the spirit of sisterhood, she helped trim her pubes. “That’s about as close as I ever would want to get with anyone. You see, I’ve had weight problems all my life, but when I was taking care of my sister, it got worse. She died this past December and it was horrible!! Awful!! I put twenty pounds on in December alone. Can you believe that? Twenty Pounds in ONE Month. And I know I should really get a handle on it, so I’m trying.”

And here is where I had to stop her.

“Are you fucking KIDDING me? Your sister just died- fairly recently. That is a horrible thing. That is a hard thing! Of course you put on twenty pounds. Fuck, if you had to put on a hundred to deal with what you had to deal with, that would have been fine. You did that to deal with a terrible situation. you have all the right in the world to that weight- and you don’t need to have a handle on it!! You have just gone through something very hard, and you do whatever the fuck you need to get through it. So what if you put on a thousand pounds. I don’t think I could have ever done what you’ve done!!”

And that’s the thing. I can’t detail her experience with her sister, how hard it was- how, in fact- beyond hard it was. My mother has lymphoma, and ever since she’s been diagnosed I’ve been dealing with the ramifications of having cancer in the family, because- besides the basic sickness of cancer, it is a mental fuck as well. The family dynamic that shifts in the face of a cancer diagnosis can, at times, be as equally traumatic as the actual sickness. And here she was, the only person in her family out of seven children that was dealing with it. That was with her sister at the doctors. That held down a full-time job while acting as a nurse, a friend, and a support system. And she is saying she can’t get a handle over her weight? Fuck everyone. Your sister just died. You do whatever the fuck you want.

This is what kills me, absolutely kills me about women. We can go through the most traumatic experience, and still be expected to put heels on. To wipe the mascara from my face. And when we don’t, we think we’re being ‘weak’. We can’t ‘control’ ourselves. We are mother, lover, wage earner, nurse, diva, siren, goddess and bitch, and we think we need to be ‘handled better’. Fuck that.

This woman and I (not going to mention her name) spoke throughout the entire flight, about drugs and alcohol (which she’d also had a problem with), weight, cancer, and then once we bonded over that- went on to talk about race, gentrification, the American dollar, the state of ‘things’. A dialogue. A dialogue started. From how the plane wasn’t moving. A conversation about the weather, about air controllers, tarmacs, flight plans. Then we went on to our greatest hearts, and then we took on the world. That’s how it happens, folks.

And that’s why it was an incredible flight. Because of our incredible connection, our incredible conversation. But when you get down to it, it was just two women talking- something seen as not too incredible at all. But it is.