Another Future

It has been three grueling months since I last wrote in my journal. Those months have not been entirely without writing, but what writing I have done has been academic, a few tossed off poems that come from morning walks. When I have tried to write for myself, all that appears is stress and the desire to escape. Some of my lack of productivity is due to my own failure to adhere to the routines that I know work, but I am also burdened by the stultifying confinement that has lasted through winter and spring in the shadow of a silent, brooding, oppressive, passive, ever-distant yet constantly present “partner.”

True, my work was nearly killing this spring term what with the overload of online classes and two weeks of teaching peace journalism in Turkey during the session, coming home ill and exhausted, all while revising the textbook and doing days-long editing and cutting of each of T’s chapters because he is either incapable or unwilling to do the needed work. It is clear that with each edition it becomes more and more difficult for him to update his chapters, to do them well, and to keep them short. Plus, it was much more difficult than I imagined to take on and revise one of J’s chapters. UGH.

But that is all behind me now as I begin to try to cajole the architect into realizing my completed plans for the transformation of the blue building into my envisioned home and also to design a walipini for the garden. The new house requires expensive infrastructure: well, septic, electric on grid, and redesign, demolition and rebuilding (new construction, really). Work will begin next the spring if all goes to plan, but my energies are diverted by the ongoing family struggle over the lake property in Maine. It drags on and on with more than enough ugliness to fill my days. I’m sick to the bone with it, and it hurts to have so much hatred directed at me, but it doesn’t push my buttons or anger me now as much as it once did. In fact, it makes clear how fruitless it has been for me to try to work with P and how right I am to walk away with whatever little they will give for my share.

So I will turn away from “work” into the garden and cooking and a visit from neighbors as I go through the motions of a partnership and my mind plans another future, though I know not what.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

June 4, 2013

Madwoman and The Others

Twenty years after my mother’s death, I came to understand my mother’s alcoholic volatility and abuse not as madness but as products of cultural and psychiatric forces bent on marginalizing women who resist the status quo. In my hybrid biography/memoir/cultural critique—my first non-academic book—I struggle toward truth in writing that is equal parts enraged scream, nature elegy, scholarly dissection, and riff on life’s pervasive uncertainty.  Like Tara Westover’s Educated in its sharply drawn portraits of family pain, Madwoman moves outward to connect deep familial knowledge of centuries of women’s oppression to twentieth-century insights to show how one daughter can break entrenched patterns and move toward a healthier life. 

The Others (My Italians), my historical fiction book in its infancy, draws from the immigration and life of my paternal family. It is the story of southern Italians, my Italians, who cycled back and forth through Ellis Island in the late nineteenth-century. They came during the wave of peasants escaping the destitution, oppression, and brutality of a nation ruled by and for northerner Italians to find themselves labelled Mafiosi or hooligans or oversexed predators. Not unlike the Irish who arrived before them, became white, and accessed power in the Roman Catholic Church, the police, and politics, these Other Italians came in search of a better present and a happier future for their children. Four generations later, I look back at these people who electrified New York City’s high rises and carved and crafted the stone and woodwork that adorn our churches and homes to show how decades of segregation, separation, and denigration continue to mark Italian Americans as Other despite more than half a century of living in America’s mainstream.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Source: Library of Congress.

Feb. 10, 2022

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