Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Grandmother's Passing

My Jewish grandmother, my father's mother, died on Sunday at the age of 92. Grandma Pollins was my strongest link to my Jewish heritage. Now, in the wake of her death, I find myself wondering what, if anything, connects me to Judaism and the Jewish culture.  

My father wrote in an email to friends and family:

"We sat with my mom and sister all day Saturday. Although she was in a lot of pain and mostly out of it, my mom momentarily recognized me, said my name, and smiled. During our vigil on Saturday, I tried to make some sense of life and death. I was looking for some evidence of a spiritual world to which my mom was hopefully entering. I must report I did not find any. I still believe, though, that our life here on earth does have meaning and is part of a grander plan that is a mystery."

This is how I was raised by both my father and mother. I was not raised with a strong religious sense. I was made to know, however, from an early age, that the world is full of magic and mystery. This is how I hope to raise my daughter.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jamaal May's Facebook Status Updates

My buddy and Warren Wilson classmate, the poet Jamaal May, writes some of my favorite Facebook status updates. They're are almost always funny and thoughtful, and often challenging. If Facebook status updates are a viable and distinct genre (and I believe they are), Jamaal is a master. Here are a few recent examples:

"What percentage of people who describe themselves as "blunt" and "outspoken" are just tactless assholes who are too lazy to work on that shit. Gotta be up in the 90s right?"

"My compulsion to multitask has resulted in me failing at making tea not once but twice this morning. Once when the boiled water sat alone until it was no longer boiled, and once when the smoke alarm informed me that all my water was now steam. Might as well do away with the pretext and just have this shot of whiskey straight."

"I'm surprised how many strong fiction writers don't seem to know 'black man' or 'arab woman' is not a complete description of a person's look to anyone who dosen't think all non-white people look the same. When I read 'Asian boy,' I can't make out a face. I don't even know what stereotype I'm supposed to be seeing, because if he's from Japan he's not even going to look remotely like a Bangladeshi boy, for example. It's not just an identity politics, race relation, or whatever the BS panel buzz word is this week, issue. Never mind me taking offense, (especially since that's written off as being 'too sensitive' these days) it takes me out of the story. It's at the very least a basic craft issue and I find it bizarre people aren't learning this in their creative writing programs. Could you imagine workshopping a story with a white narrator who describes ever secondary character he encounters as 'the white bank teller,' 'the cute white guy down the hall,' 'the white mechanic...' Umm... actually, I kind of want to read that story."