Kitchen, Bedroom, and Shop: Women’s Roles in the Past

If you listen to the modern women’s movement, the history of women goes something like this: golden age of matriarchy, oppression (may or may not pre-date Christianity and/or Judaism), heroic struggle, oppression, repression, partial victory, ongoing struggle. Women were confined to the kitchen, the bedroom and nursery, and on rare occasions permitted a few strictly limited places within their religious traditions. And then along came Second Wave Feminism and there was Light! Except like so much in history, it never quite worked like that, or happend that simply. You see, the (in)famous Kinder, Küche, und Kirche of tradition only applied after 1800, and then only to a very limited group of women in Western Europe and the US. Oops.

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Since the Rain

“Give me clear blue skies/ and 18 inches of rain” is probably the real state motto of everyone west of Wichita, KS. We all want rain, but not too much and not during wheat or cotton harvest and certainly not all at once this time, please Lord? We want it hot for the corn but not too hot and no water-sucking southwest winds. We want prices to stay up till we sell and then to drop so the grocery bill doesn’t kill us. Or as a friend of mine (farmer’s wife) sighed one evening, “If farmers and ranchers didn’t have something to complain about, they’d die.” Continue reading

Book Review: A Glass of Shadow

Liz Williams A Glass of Shadow e-book, 2011

I first encountered Liz Williams writing in her two volumes about running a witchcraft shop in Glastonbury, England. Yes, that Glastonbury. I wasn’t certain if I’d like her fiction so I purchased her e-book, A Glass of Shadow, a collection of 19 short stories. With a few few exceptions, the stories start and finish strong, with fascinating “what ifs” and intriguing settings.51R6z15PGqL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

Most stories are closer to fantasy than science fiction, although several blurr into science-fantasy, notably the first three tales and the two Martian stories. Dominant themes include personal responsibility, the power of women scorned, and the problems of central authority. There are also some environmentalist themes as well, but not overly heavy handed and they are not the sole-focus of the story. I was disappointed by the piece that took a cheap and over-used shot at the Catholic Church and Christianity in general, but even there you could read it as a warning about entrenched hierarchies that happened to use the Church as the foil (given the time and setting of the story). The two Martian stories, for example, suggest that matriarchies are perhaps not the glorious things some activists (and fantasy writers) dream of.

The collection is short, 240 pages and 19 stories, but each piece is, if not a small gem, an intriguing tale. I enjoyed the twist in the wer-hunter story. The second Martian tale gave me chills and not just because of the climatic setting of the story. I’d recommend the book for ages 13+, more for the implied ideas and situations than open violence and sex. Although dark, the book is not grim and does have a Human Wave feel overall.

In short, I enjoyed the collection for the most part, and will probably look at Williams’ longer works.

Eastwards Ho: Hispano Pioneers

The American settlement narrative runs mostly as follows: the first humans on the continent arrived over the Bering Land bridge during the last Ice Age. They became the peoples called Native Americans or American Indians or First Nations. Then Europeans arrived on the eastern coasts, settled east of the Appalachian Mountains, and then surged west, bringing wheat, dairy cattle, school marks, railroads, telegraph wires, and plumbing (all the signs of civilization) with them.

Westward the Course of Empire Makes its Way.  By Leutze at www.painting

Westward the Course of Empire Makes its Way. By Leutze at http://www.painting

A slightly more refined version, the Frontier Thesis, first proposed by Frederick Jackson Turner in 1892 and fought over through today, has trappers and explorers, then ranchers, small farmers, and then urban dwellers moving west in waves, each group pushing the former farther and farther west until the frontier ceased to exist when a certain level of population was reached.

Except that doesn’t work in the Texas Panhandle. Continue reading

Connections and Correspondences

Over Thanksgiving I got the chance to meet old friends and new ones, all people I crossed paths with through school and writing. You could sense a little trepidation from all involved, because let’s face it, asking introverts to go across a big city at night to meet a stranger (especially one who uses a borrowed kitten as an icon) is a little scary. Everyone knows you need to be careful about strangers and the internet. Except we weren’t strangers. Or at least, not much stranger than the other people in the restaurant. (It may be just as well that the folks at the other breakfast table on Saturday were hard of hearing, though, but anyway . . .) You see, in a way, the internet has resurrected the very old tradition of acquaintances based on the written word. Continue reading