Thursday, December 01, 2016

Back to School

"Classroom" Photo by William Creswell, used with attribution, CC BY 2.0

(Cross posted from The Scriptors, a group writing blog)

While I have been a lifelong passionate reader, I didn't much like English classes (or as they are called now, Language Arts) when I was in school. Sure, I would rather have been reading science fiction or fantasy novels than Dickens or Hawthorne or Faulkner, but that wasn't the main reason I disliked class. No, it was the absolute assurance of my teachers that they knew what the author intended in every passage, every single word.

This was in the 1970s and educational philosophies were still very much in the top down/autocratic style.

Anyway, I used to fantasize about becoming a famous author and showing up in a class just as a teacher was set to make some pronouncement about author intent and meaning just so I could stand and tell them they were utterly and helplessly wrong. As I got older, I realized that there had been merit in understanding the context of the writer's world and worldview in digging through layers of meaning in the written word, but I still hold to a philosophy that meaning is made in the intersection of artist and audience and that intent may not be nearly as important as how meaning shifts and evolves with our experience.

I can look back at work I'd written years ago and see layers of meanings and themes I had never consciously intended. Indeed, humans are meaning makers par excellence - consider how we create logic even in the midst of the illogic of our dreams.

Now, all of that is a preamble to the point of this blogpost: There's a curriculum being developed around my Halcyone Space books. Young-Lisa is enjoying her moment of revenge-fantasy from all the boring moments in Jr High and High School having to read Dickens over and over and over again. (Sorry for all you Dickens fans, but for whatever reason, I ended up studying Great Expectations three years in a row. If I never look at the man's work again, it will be too soon.)

A few months ago, I got a message from a woman who is a writer, educator, and fan of my work. She wanted to know if I had any objections to her developing a curriculum for homeschooled High School students based on DERELICT, the first book of my Halcyone Space series. She was concerned that there wasn't enough out there for homeschool educators that was based around diversity and using texts that would appeal to teens.

She shared the draft curriculum she had put together and I was blown away. Each lesson connected to a chapter and contained vocabulary, outside readings, and engaging multi-media activities to enhance learning. Gone were the dry lectures of my own High School career, along with set meanings and spoonfed themes. This was a totally different kind of learning, one that brought the students' own passions and interests into the forefront. One that honored the constructivist mindset that I bring to my work.

Did I have any objections? I was *thrilled*. And I'm not ashamed to say I teared up some. I mean, how cool is it that High School kids will be able to study Language Arts, STEM, creativity, and diversity within the context of a space opera novel! And mine! From the press release:

DERELICT itself features a group of teen friends who unexpectedly blast off into space aboard an old spaceship they were repairing. The story follows the team as they discover their individual and group strengths against an array of challenges. Woven into the mix are LGBT, STEM, Humanities and personal development content. 
[Belinda Y.] Hughes summarized each chapter and pulled out the vocabulary words. She then scoured the web and found engaging educational activities that were relevant to the chapter themes and appropriate to high school-level learners, including content from and Minecraft. “My goal was to bring this book to life in a fun, meaningful, interactive way, as well as lead students to think, and support them in their personal growth at a pivotal point in their young lives,” offers Hughes.

So, yeah, I've just been 'schooled' and in the best way possible.

You can read more about Belinda Y. Hughes and the development of her diversity curricula here, along with finding links to where the curriculum based on DERELICT is available. Her plan is to continue though the series.

I would be grateful if you would you please pass this on to any interested educators and homeschoolers you might know. Thank you.

(Just as an FYI, I have no commercial stake in the sale of Hughes's curriculum. That is her intellectual property.) 



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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"The World Turned Upside Down"

It's fitting to use this song from "Hamilton" for the title of this blogpost for a number of reasons:

First, it's been two weeks since it feels like the world has been turned upside down. In two weeks we've gone from a certain smug confidence in the basic democratic principles of the United States to a place where many of us are fearful for our selves, our loved ones, our futures, and the most vulnerable in our population.

Second, the irony in making an explicit call back to the musical that our president elect has so forcefully criticized for being mean and unfair amuses me. And there has been precious little to be amused by of late. (Except for the "JoBama" memes.)

Third, because of a line in the song sung by Hercules Mulligan: "When you knock me down, I get the f*ck back up again."

That's what I'm hoping to take forward in my own life.

It has taken me two weeks to come to the point where I am forced to accept that a president-elect who is patently unqualified, ego-driven, infantile, incompetent, and untrustworthy (to name a few) will be the POTUS. It is not the reality I ever wanted to live in. I've spent the past two weeks in a haze of anger and fear and denial, but too much is happening and too quickly for me to stay in that state.

This is my personal manifesto.

  • I will speak openly in private life, public life, and social media against injustice, intolerance, and hatred
  • I will actively confront injustice, intolerance, and hatred when and where I see it, working to be an ally in society
  • I will support - with my money and my time - organizations that promote social justice, tolerance, civil liberties, and civil rights
  • I will continue to write stories that include diversity as a given
  • I will take care with my words and strive to be respectful to my fellow human beings by using the forms of address/pronouns they prefer
  • I will listen to marginalized voices and do what I can to amplify them
  • I will continue to support and vote for candidates at local and federal levels who promote the causes of social justice, tolerance, civil liberties, and civil rights

I will not be silenced. Not in my life. Not in my work. I have a kind of privilege that comes from having grown children, silver hair, and a degree of financial stability: I am no longer consumed with what others think of me anymore.

If what I can do is continue to write stories of individuals finding their power to act against injustice, that's what I will do. I'd like to think that Ro and the crew of Halcyone would approve.


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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Silence equals Consent, redux

This is the entire thread that I posted on twitter this morning, consolidated into one post. I would love to believe I'm overreacting. I would love to believe that our democratic institutions will weather any storm. I would love to be wrong.

Some deeply personal thoughts on ally-ship, intersectionality, and where to go from here. #notnormal

I am white, Jewish, neuro-atypical (among others). Some of my identities wrap me in privilege, some expose me to intolerance. Regardless of my other identities, my whiteness has protected me and let me live a life of relative privilege.

I was guilty of believing we were evolving as a society. That the work of social justice had already been done and I didn't have to fight. I was guilty of believing I could sit back in my comfortable suburban life and be smug in my liberal politics.

Hey - we had gay marriage. We elected the 1st black president, twice. It was all unicorns and glitter, right?

I thought anti-Muslim rhetoric after 9-11 was a blip & things would normalize. But being anti-Muslim became the new normal. #notnormal

I thought we'd made headway in dismantling institutional racism. Then came case after case of police targeting black lives, brown lives. These were not new horrors, only newly documented, newly public. Impossible to ignore, even in white suburbia. #notnormal

Economic & educational segregation is alive and well and thriving. Partly due to people like me who stopped saying this is #notnormal

Our justice system is blind, right? But it was never supposed to be blind to injustice. I bought into the whole zero-tolerance rhetoric, never seeing how it was propped up by manufactured fear or how it destroyed black lives simply because they were black. #notnormal

Now we have the ascendancy of Trump and the attempted normalization of intolerance. If I remain silent - if I believe the institutions of government will protect the vulnerable from these abuses - I create the conditions for abuse to be normalized. My liberal politics don't matter. My support of social justice causes doesn't matter.

NONE of it matters if I remain silent and allow what privilege I have to shield me. That is cowardice. That supports evil. #notnormal

Yes, I am late to this party. Yes, I let myself be complacent. I can let shame hold me back or I can move forward with greater resolve and add my voice to the chorus saying #notnormal

Do not be silent. Silence=consent


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Monday, November 14, 2016

All I Have is Words

All I have is words and I fear they may not be enough.


I am not in a position of political power or authority.
I am not a journalist or a news anchor or an actor in the public eye.
I don't have national reach or a million followers.
I'm not the kind of person to lead marches or organize boycotts; I'm not that brave or comfortable to be the public face of any kind of movement.


I know what it's like to be bullied.
I know what it's like to be assaulted.
I know what it's like to feel vulnerable and afraid.

I know what it's like to be in a position to advocate and help those more vulnerable than myself. And through that advocacy, I have finally learned how to stand up for myself.


There are people in my family and in my community of friends who are frightened. For a myriad of reasons, they find themselves in a vulnerable position. Some are black or brown. Some are gender non-conforming. Some are gay. Some are women in traditionally male spaces. Some are neuro-atypical. Some are Muslim or Jewish or Sikhs, or atheist - or any number of beliefs or non-beliefs that put them in the minority. Too many live at the intersections of these vulnerabilities.


On Tuesday, a candidate was elected who stated loudly and publicly that being 'other' won't be tolerated. A candidate who, by his very choices in advisors, has reinforced that message, despite any conciliatory soundbites he may be making for the media. 

And in the ensuing days, I heard - over and over - loud calls for unity and acceptance.



In relation to a man whose very platform is disunity and rejection of the other.

The cognitive dissonance is stunning.


I will not accept hatred.
I will not accept inequity.
I will not accept this new 'normal' that encourages acts of violence against already marginalized populations.


I am a 53 year old white suburban Jewish woman, living in a liberal enclave in the Northeast. I have been steeped in privilege for a lifetime and while my beliefs and my politics have always tilted toward justice and equity, I have been forced to admit that I have not done enough.

I was afraid.

And in my fear, I closed my eyes to the reality for too many in my community who have had no choice but to struggle against a system that wasn't built for them.

As a friend and fellow writer said to me last week: Welcome to the party. It's been going on for a long time, but we have a space for you at the table.


I am a writer and my tools are words.

I fear they will not be enough.

Still, I will not remain silent.

I will speak and I will write and I will act.


I will speak and I will write and I will act.



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