Things I Read That I Love #176: The Many-Gendered Mothers Of My Heart

HELLO and welcome to the 176th installment of Things I Read That I Love, wherein I share with you some of the longer-form journalism/essays I’ve read recently so that you can read them too and we can all know more about Judy Blume! This “column” is less feminist/queer focused than the rest of the site because when something is feminist/queer focused, I put it on the rest of the site. Here is where the other things are.

The title of this feature is inspired by the title of Emily Gould’s tumblr, Things I Ate That I Love.


Los Angeles Plays Itself, by Dayna Tortorici for n+1, May 2015

Traffic, Teenagers, Weed, Speech, Los Angeles Plays Itself, Herr Schmidt, Fear, Self-Improvement, Downtown, you know, Los Angeles, from a person who has been there for some time. Westwood.

The Therapist Who Saved My Life: On The Possibility of Not Killing Oneself, by Ella Wilson for Creative Nonfiction, May 2015

This is a person who did not have a great childhood and has tried to kill herself more than once and tried to “feel better” but she has not gotten better through meds or therapy or anything that’s supposed to make people feel better but then she meets this really great therapist who is more than just a therapist and everything changes. I wasn’t sure from the title that this piece would resonate, but it did. It surprised me. It also contains graphic depictions of suicide attempts, so you might not want to read this on the bus.

The Upwardly Mobile Barista, by Amanda Ripley for The Atlantic, May 2015

On the conception, execution and current status of Starbucks’ partnership with Arizona Sate University to help their employees finish their college degrees.

Not Knowing, by Katherine Bernard for The Awl, May 2015

Even though we have the same last name, we’re not related as far as I know, which is too bad, because if we were, I bet she’d write so many essays for us that I’d become dizzy with joy.

Walking on a path in Griffith Park with my friend, we play a game of egos in which we reveal how we describe each other to strangers. About her, I say, “She’s an indie filmmaker, she is tall, has bangs, she holds dinner parties in New York,” on and on. About me, she starts: “She’s a lesbian,” and the sound goes white. Identity coats everything we do. What does it keep out? I believe there is a further out than outside of the closet. And that’s telling the truth, always. I still want the possibility of being drenched, surprised by feeling.

Judy Blume Knows All Your Secrets, by Susan Dominos for The New York Times Magazine, May 2015

I’m confident I read every single one of her YA novels, though never those she wrote for adults — and she’s got another one coming out soon, which’s the occasion for this article, in which the author joins Blume in her Key West home to talk about all that.

In so many of Blume’s books, her main characters’ bodies insist on their inherent, primal messiness; they crave, they ooze, break out in rashes as strange and humiliating as desire itself. The body is reckless, but telling. In “Wifey,” her first adult novel, published in 1978, Sandy, a miserably stifled housewife in search of sexual adventure, comes down with hives and fever. On the first page of “Are You There God?” the young narrator says that she knew what the weather was like from the second she woke up, “because I caught my mother sniffing under her arms.” Growing up in Elizabeth in the 1950s, Blume was that kind of girl: observant, curious, forever noting the mysterious ways of adults.

The Twilight of the Indoor Mall, by Mike Nagel for The Awl, November 2014

The Collin Creek Mall in Plano is a dead mall. It’s still open, actually, even now, but there lots of wide empty spaces, like a ghost town that a few people still live in, like Forever 21. So this writer Mike Nagel went there around holiday time last year and this story is what he found there. I love this kind of stuff.

Till Death Do Us Part, by Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff for The Post and Courier, May 2015

South Carolina has the highest rates of domestic abuse and men killing women in the country, and many of its citizens a huge proponent of the second amendment and old-fashioned old boy culture. This is appalling, what goes on in a state where “the state’s power structure is a fraternity reluctant to challenge the belief that a man’s home is his castle and what goes on there, stays there.” This is a seven-part investigation that I hope prompts some real action because this is fucked.  I love that legislators are taking the time to reject bills that do things like remove guns from the homes of convicted abusers or raise minimum sentence for first-time abusers to 180 days from its current status of 30 days. They talk to a Senator who thinks domestic violence bills are just anti-gun bulls in disguise. They talk to the House Minority Leader who says it’s better to leave the abuser at home rather than in jail so as to “preserve the family” by enabling the abuser to keep his job and pay the bills (he assumes, of course, that the man has a job and does pay the bills). They talk to another Senator who says guns aren’t the problem because there are other weapons people can use (to kill people who are on the street while they’re in a moving car? I don’t think so) and that the real issue is not enough Jesus in everybody’s lives. As is explained early on in the piece, “..they maintain a legal system in which a man can earn five years in prison for abusing his dog but a maximum of just 30 days in jail for beating his wife or girlfriend on a first offense.” 

It just gets worse and worse. I keep wanting to tell you more and more about what I read here but you should read it yourself. And, I’ll be honest, probably weep, and note how very little has changed since Bastard Out of Carolina.

(h/t to K’idazq’eni)

Split Image, by Kate Fagan for ESPN Women, May 2015

A teenager heads to Penn to run track and ends up dying by suicide at the start of second semester. This article seems preoccupied with how social media betrayed her true mental health state, which sometimes felt like a forced conceit, but also, maybe not — we’ve talked a lot about how intense first semester alienation (like here and here) can be when it seems like everybody else is doing better at having fun in college than you are and mental health problems that often get worse in your late teens rush forward and take over. Social media would make that harder — it’s not just stories from friends to make you feel like you’re doing it wrong, but pictures, too. Anyhow, it’s a really well-done and well-written piece, I recommend it. (h/t to hellooutthere)

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2798 articles for us.

11 Comments

  1. its because of you riese that i have the longform app on my phone, with it i get to read wonderful articles that i otherwise wouldn’t have. I read articles and then am like, “oooohhh this is sooo good”, and then have no one to share it with because, hello they are long lol. Its a wonderful surprise to then see the same article that got my blood boiling or my heart happy posted here on friday. I say that to ask this, can i post the links to these articles here, is it possible to email them to you and see if you find them interesting too? I appreciate that your busy so i don’t know. Perfect example, this article

    http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/04/inside-the-world-of-femme-coaching.html

        • then i definitely missed that and probably more editions, lol. but it was nicely done and thanks for answering the questions. sharing articles just adds to the fun and now i want to get started on amber’s link and i would definitely recommend the app, when i don’t have books to read on my kindle the app is the first thing i turn to

  2. That’s nuts. I read that article about Collin Creek about a month ago, and it prompted me to go on this whirlwind journey across Dallas (of which Plano is a suburb), photographing every indoor mall in the metroplex.

    Took me two weeks, because there are *eighteen* of them, including Collin Creek, but I did it. I sort of just wanted to catch this point in time, because there’s so many shopping centers in Dallas, they’ve become sort of a fixed point in my life growing up here. Things have definitely changed.

  3. I really loved most of these articles. I found the last one, “Split Image,” particularly powerful; I cried as I read it. I have felt similarly about the images others project online versus the mess of my own life. I was glad to read that Madison’s family is working to help others with mental illness/depression.

    I also feel like I understand LA a lot more now!

    As a former Starbucks barista who only went to college for three semesters, I was very interested in “The Upwardly Mobile Barista.” I wish the program had been in place back in 2008-9, when I was working there!

    I never comment on this series – mostly because I am not a big commenter in general – but the comment week going on right now is making me feel more positive about commenting on old articles. So I wanted to tell you that I really love “Things I Read That I Love.” It often exposes me to issues and writers I would never think to seek out, but find so interesting. Thank you so much for putting it together every week!

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