The history of women gaining the right to vote is receiving new attention with the release of the movie Suffragette.
That movie takes place in England, but earlier this year, I visited the mecca of women’s suffrage in the U.S., Seneca Falls, New York, located in the state’s Finger Lakes region, at the tip of Seneca Lake. There, Women’s Rights National Historical Park depicts the women’s journey to equal citizenship in this country, particularly the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, on July 19-20,1848.
Get up to speed on women’s rights struggle at the Visitors Center with a great film on the first conventions and its leaders, exhibits on that event and our progress since then, and a book store selling a variety of books on the topic.
The park also includes the Wesleyan Chapel next door the convention took place and the houses of other prominent leaders of the movement including Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She helped launch the reform movement for women’s rights to which she dedicated the rest of her life. She was born on November 12, 1815, (Happy 200 birthday!) and lived in Seneca Falls.
Down the street from the Visitors Center, you can also tour the National Women’s Hall of Fame, where plaques and photos pay homage to America’s famous women.
It’s all very inspiring, especially if you’ve ever felt like Elizabeth Cady Stanton who, isolated at home with three small children, described herself as a “caged lioness.”
For an excellent list of books about women’s suffrage and other travel reading, go to Longitude Books and search under “women’s suffrage.” And be sure to read my article about Jack London State Park in their “Favorite Spot” section.
As I assemble my 2016 reading list, book awards are a great way to find books and authors I may not have heard of, with sort of a “best of the year” stamp of approval. I like to blend in few classics, too, especially those Victorian-era novels by authors such as Hardy, Dickens, the Brontes of which I’m a fanatical fan. New on that list for me, the works of Elizabeth Gaskell. (I’m embarrassed to admit I never heard of her until I saw North and South on Netflix.) And, I toss in a little non-fiction for good measure.
Send me your ideas and look for my final list.
Other Contenders for the National Book Award 2015 FictionKaren E. Bender, Refund , Angela Flournoy, The Turner House; Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies; Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life
Non Fiction Sally Mann, Hold Still; Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus ; Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship; and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran; Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light
Ross Gay, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude ; Terrance Hayes, How to Be Drawn; Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things ; Patrick Phillips, Elegy for a Broken Machine
Young People’s Literature
Ali Benjamin, The Thing About Jellyfish; Laura Ruby, Bone Gap ; Steve Sheinkin, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War ; Noelle Stevenson, Nimona
I have a new article, The Wild Still Calls, in this month’s issue of a fun magazine, “Live Happy.” It’s about Jack London State Park and how the volunteers there are keeping the park and the memory of author Jack London alive.
London, author of The Call of the Wild, White Fang and many other adventure stories, was the most famous author of his time. Most people don’t know he was also a world traveler, sustainable farmer and oyster pirate. His own life was as adventurous as his stories.
Seattle is famous for its grey skies and currently, for another grey, Fifty Shades of Grey, that is. Crowds of Shades fans are driving by the Escala condominiums in Seattle, the home of the fictional Christian Grey, among other sites in the books and movie. And, tour operators now offer travel packages that incorporate Fifty Shades sites, hopefully with a little more romance and a little less S and M.
One writer called the trilogy “Fifty Shades of Bad Writing,” but darn, I wish I wrote those books; that woman has struck it rich. The movie has received equally stinky reviews, but it will probably do well financially, too.
A little mommy porn can be fun if you’re into, um, pain and bondage, but I’m here to tell you that whether it’s weather or reading, Seattle isn’t just about Grey. If you’re looking for books with a little more literary merit to inform and inspire a trip to the Emerald City, the folks at one of my favorite bookstores, Elliott Bay Books in Seattle have a reading list for you. Here’s a list they sent with some great and pretty recent fiction and nonfiction books set in Seattle, by local authors.
A Sudden Light by Garth Stein (fiction). He also wrote the Art of Racing in the Rain
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (fiction)
The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie (fiction) See my other post about Sherman Alexie and banned books.
Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot (fiction)
Love, Water, Memory by Jennie Shortridge (fiction)
Ceremony for the Choking Ghost by Karen Finneyfrock (poetry)
The Good Rain by Timothy Egan (nonfiction)
Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone (nonfiction)
Pacific Northwest: Land of Light and Water by Art Wolfe (nonfiction – pictorial)
Mary Randlett Portraits by Frances McCue and Mary Randlett (nonfiction – pictorial)
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on Bainbridge Island.
I love it when events and my reading coincide. WonderWomen, an art exhibit at the University of Minnesota’s Nash Gallery in Minneapolis runs from now until February 14. Though they didn’t plan it that way, the exhibit came on the heels of the release of Harvard historian Jill Lapore’s new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which details the weird life of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator and also the inventor of the lie detector test.
Wonder Woman—part superhero, part kinky-booted pinup girl—flew into American culture in 1941 and has been part of our pop culture ever since. Along with the biography of Wonder Woman and her creator, Lepore’s book is analysis of women’s history and feminism. The WonderWomen exhibit examines that topic from the pop-art perspective. It features works by women artists inspired or influenced by comics, animation or popular culture, and related screenings of work by women filmmakers presented by the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul. Read my article about the show in the Minnesota Women’s Press.
One of my favorite works in the show, “Wonder Woman Katy” dominates the room at the Nash Gallery. She wears a red cape and she’s seven feet tall. Don’t mess with her. That’s the image Minneapolis artist Barbara Porwit wants to convey in her Breast Cancer Superhero Portrait Project, a series of larger-than-life paintings of real women battling the disease, of which “Wonder Woman Katy” is a part. Porwit’s works celebrate the heroic nature of women affected by breast cancer
Frenchy Lunning, a professor of liberal arts at Minneapolis College of Art and Design and an internationally known expert in manga, anime (Japanese comics and animation) and popular culture, is co-curator of the exhibit. She says, ”The takeaway for viewers is to become aware of the magnitude of feminine culture and how feminist art, with all of its potentially subversively qualities, is entering mainstream culture.”
Even if you can’t make it to the WonderWomen exhibit, you’ll want to read The Secret History of Wonder Woman. A New York Times review of the book called Wonder Woman’s creator “….a huckster, a polyamorist (one and sometimes two other women lived with him and his wife), a serial liar and a bondage super-enthusiast. As Wonder Woman would say, “Suffering Sappho!” How can we resist?
Who doesn’t feel like they know just about everything there is to know about 9/11? We’ve seen the video tapes of planes crashing into the World Trade Center on September, 2001 countless times and viewed special reports and documentaries without end. Yet, when I stepped into the new National September 11 Memorial Museum I found that there actually was more to learn, but more importantly, to remember.
Located underground in the heart of the World Trade Center site, the museum tells the story of what happened on 9/11, including the events at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the story of Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. The exhibition explores the background leading up to the events and examines their aftermath and continuing implications.
Even though we’ve seen them so many times, when those video clips and films of what led up to the attack played in the museum the people watching them with me all had the same reaction: “Oh my God.” There are video taped stories from people who were there, displays of artifacts ranging from fire trucks and twisted metal beams to personal objects of people working in the towers that day (really personal things like shoes and purses), papers that rained down, and a portion of one of the stairways from which survivors escaped the building.
As one would expect in such an emotionally and politically charged situation, many parts of the museum have been controversial. Some people object to the the way one exhibit connects Islam and terrorism and the simple fact of tourists gawking at what is essentially hallowed ground offends some of the families. Nonetheless, I felt like the curators struck the right balance.
Many survivors of the attack on the World Trade Center and their families are very involved with the museum and give tours and talks at the complex. I felt lucky to be there for a presentation by an NYPD officer who was on site that day and a young woman whose father died trying to get people out of one of the towers. Their stories made it all very personal. Not a dry eye in the house.
I left the museum to stroll around the 9/11 Memorial outside with its two square waterfalls surrounded by the names of those lost in the attacks. The newly opened One World Trade Center–the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere and the fourth tallest building in the world–towers, symbolically, over it all. I’m sappy enough to feel proud of the way the city and the country has moved on, but still remembers.
If you go: Admission, $24 for adults. Go to 911memorial.org to reserve tickets, download the free 9/11 app to enhance your tour and for directions.
Read up: As usual, I recommend a bit of reading before you go which adds immensely to enhance your experience. And, as usual, I recommend fiction books for their ability to layer events and emotions to create a story that is almost more real than non-fiction. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close– Jonathan Safran Foer, Falling Man, Don DeLillo. For nonfiction, check out an anthology of New Yorker articles, After 9/11– edited by David Remnick.