Sunday, April 13, 2014

2014 LA Times Festival of Books

It's all about story.
Pamela Ribon, Lilibet Snellings, Anna David, and Annabelle Gurwitch with a fan

Your story, my story, our stories, and our participation in the Big Story.

Fiction, biography, history, memoir, even poetry--it's all story.

To the right are panelists at Conversation #2071 "Memoir: Live (and Laugh) through This."

Below is a link to 100+ photos I took while wanderig through this year's Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at the University of Southern California:

Authors I saw at the festival:

Susan Straight - She won the Robert Kirsch Award for her contribution to recording southern California life in her many novels.

Sandra Cisneros - Author of House on Mango Street and her new novel Have You Seen Marie?
The inimitable Patt Morrison

Veronica Roth - Author of the Divergent series now on screen.

Patt Morrison - Journalist and radio commentator.

Reyna Grande - Her memoir La Distancia Entre Nosotros (The Distance between Us) came out in 2012 in both Spanish and English.  Sandra Cisneros called it "the book I have been waiting decades for... Grande is the voice for millions of immigrants whose voices have been lost."

Gustavo Arellano - Funny and insightful writer about Mexicans and US Americans, their long history of conflict and influencing each other: Taco USA, Orange County, and Ask a Mexican!

T.C. Boyle - Read his story "The Love of My Life" for starters.

Lilibet, Paemla, Anna, and Annabelle (above photo) - Books about surviving love from the teen years through the fifties.

Veronica Roth - author of the Divergent series.

Mary Williams - Adopted daughter of Jane Fonda and now a writer professionally.

Eileen Cronin - Born without legs as a result of Thalidomide taken by her mother in the 1960s.

Elizabeth Scarboro - Her husband died of cystic fibrosis.
Eileen Cronin with a fan

Ron Suskind - He writes about the impact of his autistic son on his life and the lives of others in his family.

Samantha Dunn - Modernator of the panel "Memoir: The Trials of Life" with Williams, Cronin, Scarboro and Suskind.  I took several classes in writing memoir with her 10-15 years ago.

Robert Scheer - The founder of Truth Dig website and a family friend since 1986 when John was hired by his wife Narda, then editor of the Orange County edition of the LA Times.

Narda Zacchino - Founder of the LA Times Festival of Books (held for the 34th time this year) and once the highest ranked woman at the LA Times.  She co-wrote a book about the life and death of NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman; she's now working on a book about California.

Bill Boyarsky - Former city editor of the LA Times and now columnist at LA Observed, as well as friend of John's.

Tom Zoellner - His newest book is about trains (for example, how they shaped LA's freeways); his previous book was on uranium.

Lisa See - Daughter of Carolyn See, both novelists in southern California.

Anchee Min - Author of six novels and two memoirs, including Red Azalea, about losing her best friend during the Cultural Revolution in China.
Ruth Ozeki

Krista Bremer - Author of My Accidental Jihad, which was chosen by Oprah Winfrey for her book club.

Ruth Ozeki - Author of A Tale for the Time Being, a novel about Japan's earthquake and tsunami.

A financial reckoning:

Day 1 (just an evening, really): No books bought at all--but nine copies of Susan Straight's novel Between Heaven and Here happened to be in my possession as I arrived home.  (If you'd like one, let me know.)

Day 2 - The Fall.  I spent $171 on books though my budget allows only $20 per month.

Day 3 - Don't ask.  I spent more than yesterday but don't regret it.  I will somehow pay off that credit card bill, and if I can't afford to eat anything but oatmeal when I'm 80 years old, I will still have these books.

Note: This happens every year.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Disinvited

Robin Abcarian and I agree: Brandeis University made a mistake in disinviting ex-Muslim author Ayaan Hirsi Ali to be graduation speaker this year.

Hirsi Ali is known for her atheism, as well as her campaign against FGM and other forms of oppression against women. She also against Islam, having experienced various forms of oppression in Somalia, where she was born and raised.

Brandeis is a Jewish university, and apparently either her atheism or her sometimes strident opposition to Islam is now causing trouble for the institution.

Like World Vision, Brandeis took a few steps backward from its initially progressive move.

Onward and backward! 

Top Prizes to Women

Most of the top prizes at the LA TImes Book Awards went to women this year (7 out of 12, including best novel, best graphic novel, and best "first fiction."

  •  J.K. Rowling (with pen name of Robert Galbraith) got best mystery/thriller. 
  • Susan Straight got the Robert Kirsch Award for all her novels about life in southern California--and a free copy of Between Heaven and Here was given to each person attending. 
  • Ruth Ozeki - best fiction-- a novel related to Japan's zsumani.
  • Marie Arana --best biography, Bolivar: American Liberator.
  • Sheri Fink -- best current interest book, Five Days at Memorial about a New Orleans hospital in Hurricane Katrina.
  • NoViolet Budawayo -- Art Seidenbaum Award for best first fiction.
  • Ulli Lust -- Best graphic novel, Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life.

In 1996 I remember being disgusted when 8 out of 8 prizes went to men.  Frank McCourt, winner of the memoir prize for Angela's Ashes, even commented from the podium on the absence of women in the awards.

Small but measurable progress is being made in women reclaiming A Room of One's Own--as Virginia Woolf pointed out nearly one hundred years ago.

For somewhat blurry back-of-the-balcony photos of the awards evening, see:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Good to know there's a group organizing now to express support for World Vision's first announcement affirming its employees in same-sex marriages, which are recognized in Washington, where WV is located.

From Julia K. Stronks, J.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science, Whitworth University
Spokane, Washington:

Here is our new website-- Please forward to others. I'm also linking a press release that was written and an article that was done by Religion News Service, appearing in the Washington Post and the Huffington Post among other newspapers.

Press release:

Article by Religion News Service:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Stumbling Steps Forward

Thank you to Letha Dawson Scanzoni for letting EEWC-CFT members know about a tempest in a teapot in Charlotte, North Carolina, in March.

The teapot was Charlotte Catholic High School in North Carolina.
Sr.Jane Dominic Laurel

The tempest began with a lecture by Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, an assistant professor of theology at Aquinas College in Nashville, on March 21.

Sr. Jane holds a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, one of the top universities in the world for a Roman Catholic, firmly under the Vatican's control and primarily a place for the training of priests.

There's also a strong gay contingent there, however, as a colleague at CSUN informed me.  He earned a degree there but chose to marry instead of entering the priesthood.

The title of Sr. Jane Dominic's talk was "Masculinity and Femininity: Difference & Gift."  Eight of her lectures on this subject are available online:

Aquinas College began as a "normal school" for the training of young nuns of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in 1928.  Because the central mission of Dominicans has always been education, young nuns needed education to become teachers.  In 1961 it became Aquinas Junior College; it 1971 it gained accreditation to offer A.A. degrees.

In 1994 it gained accreditation for the BA degree with only one major: Teacher Education.  Today it has 576 students with majors in liberal arts, philosophy, theology, history, English, nursing, and business.

There are eight courses in theology being offered this spring, four by Sr. Jane Dominic and four by Richard Bulzacchelli, S.T.D.  That's Doctorate in Sacred Theology, not what you were thinking.

Sr. Jane Dominic is now on leave, so heaven knows who's teaching her courses.

Richard's bio on the Aquinas website includes this interesting note:  "Dr. Bulzacchelli also holds the Mandatum, and has willingly offered a public profession of faith."

In other words, he's complying with Ex corde ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution issued by Pope John Paul II in 1990, designed to keep (American) Catholic colleges and universities in line with Rome's teachings on theology and on social issues.

Ex corde is why I left a tenured position at a Catholic college in 1999, the year American bishops submitted to Rome a plan for implementation of Ex corde that actually got Vatican approval.

Ex corde "requires all teachers of theology in Catholic colleges and universities to have the mandate of the local ecclesiastical authority (normally the local bishop)," as Wikipedia sums it up.  See the full text on the Vatican website:

In order to get a mandatum, or permission to continue teaching, professors of theology and religious studies need to submit a request to their local bishop or archbishop.

In Los Angeles, that person in 1999 would have been Archbishop Roger Mahony, now under forced retirement from public speaking because of his mishandling of priests accused of sexual abuse of children.

Ex corde also requires presidents of colleges and universities to submit a personal profession of faith to their local bishop.  If the statement is okay, they get to continue as president.  If not, presumably, some sort of medieval war betweem the bishops and the college would ensue.

Richard Bulzacchelli didn't have to submit a statement of faith because he's not the president of Aquinas.  He just volunteered to do it anyway.  He went above and beyond in complying with Ex corde ecclesiae.

I, on the other hand, didn't like the smell of universities ruled by the local bishops.  It reminded me of medieval times, when bishops tried to control local universities and the academics fought back.  (I'm a medievalist.)

As a feminist, I couldn't go along with my friends in the theology department (even those tenured for thirty years), having to submit a request to Archibishop Mahony for permission to continue teaching.

I knew that my friends Marie Egan and Alexis Navarro couldn't publish papers on subjects such as whether priestly ordination should be opened to women, whether  priests should be allowed to marry, whether Catholic women should be allowed to use birth control, whether abortion should be legal, et cetera.

Catholics and especially Catholic theologians are not allowed to speak publicly or write on these issues.

Being a good Protestant, I submitted my resignation in November, 1999.  My Catholic friends, however, advised me to hang in there, using the saying (lema) popular in 17th C. Mexico:´lejos de Roma y cerca de Dios´ ( "Far from Rome but close to God").

Back to Sr. Jane Dominic:  I don't want to judge her.  She knows only what her training in the Roman Catholic Church has allowed her to learn.  I can't find her undergraduate university online because Aquinas has removed her from its website.  I don't know where she grew up.

She hasn't had the chance to have friends like Letha Dawson Scanzoni, Arlynne Ostlund, Jeanne Hanson or  Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.  She probably doesn't even know that books like Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? exist.

Perhaps she knows that some Christian churches ordain persons in same-sex marriages.

Has she read recent scholarship on sexuality?  Probably not, if she's teaching that masturbation causes people to become gay or lesbian.  She's a good Catholic.  She believes what she has been taught.

The good news in all this:

  1. Sr. Jane Dominic now has some time off to reflect, pray, read.  Let's pray for her, and pray that kind lesbians will become her friends, listen to her, talk with her. 
  2. She had given talks on sexuality "more than 80 times in 25 states," as she told the Catholic News Herald., but she probably won't be giving too many of them in the future.  She will be sticking to theology, not sociology.
  3. Her university president regrets allowing her to speak on subjects other than theology and is speaking in a tolerant way to LGBTQ people and their supporters.  

Letha says it all:  "The whole incident shows that attitudes are changing in a way not foreseen even a few years ago."

Response of Sr. Mary Sarah Galbraith, O.P., president of Aquinas College:

In her presentation, Sister Jane Dominic spoke clearly on matters of faith and morals. Her deviation into realms of sociology and anthropology was beyond the scope of her expertise. Sister is a trained theologian from a Pontifical University and has the credentials to contribute to scholarly bodies of work. This she has done in the past with distinction. The unfortunate events at Charlotte Catholic High School are not representative of the quality of Sister’s academic contributions or the positive influence that she has had on her students. The students at Charlotte Catholic were unprepared, as were their parents, for the topic that Sister was asked to deliver. The consequence was a complete misrepresentation of the school’s intention to bring a message that would enlighten and bring freedom and peace.
There are no words that are able to reverse the harm that has been caused by these comments. The community of Aquinas College is saddened by this extreme outcome and wishes to reiterate that this is not something the College condones or desires to create.
- See more at:

See also:

She Is, and She Is Here

Below is my submission to the blog Divine Feminine on, 
Thanks to Marg Herder for letting me know about the request for posts.

The Divine Feminine is popping up all over: 
among my Jewish friends, my singing friends, my Women-Church friends, my evangelical and recovering-evangelical friends… even at the annual women’s retreat of my Presbyterian church.

I see Her mostly in the faces of women but also in mountains, hills, streams, lakes, ocean shores, and in the starry skies.  She is Oriana, wearing a knee-length skirt and dancing near the Seven Sisters, whom the Japanese call Subaru.

I see Her in my friend Gilla Nissan, who teaches classes in the Hebrew letters (each of which is a she) and their powers.  The letter Bet, for instance, is about blessing and home and health (berachah, bayit and briut),   Gilla leads meditations in which we enter the Beth and receive her gifts to us.   “We are in Messianic times,” Gilla and her friends believe.  “More is available from above.”

I see her in my singing friends who meet for Sacred Emerging with Carolyn McDade, who has gathered circles of women around North America for 35 years.  Our group in Los Angeles area has met annually for twenty years.

I see her in my Women-Church friends.   Once a month we share a liturgy at Pilgrim Place in Claremont, CA, each time designed and led by a different one of us.  We address Holy Wisdom, Sophia, Mother God, the Shekinah, and our dialogue woven together becomes a sermon.  Many of us are crones, retired from serving and teaching around the country, including Grail women, UN women, former nuns, pastors, missionaries.  I see Her in these faces: Rosemary Ruether, Audrey Sorrento, Ann Hidalgo.

I see her at gatherings of Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus, now also called Christian Feminism Today.  We will celebrate the 40th anniversary of our founding this summer at a conference in St. Louis.  When Virginia Ramey Mollenkott is preaching or Letha Dawson Scanzoni is recounting how the Spirit led her in 1965 to begin writing a woman’s challenge to male patriarchy in the church, I feel the presence of the Divine Feminine.  Virginia is the author of a 1993 book, The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God as Female (New York: Crossroad).

I was surprised to see Her speaking and moving at a retreat of eighty women from my Presbyterian church this past January.  Such events can be dominated by male language for God and can become mere social gatherings, but this one was Divine and Feminine, like an EEWC or Women-Church event.  Our guest speaker, Kobie Vermaak, pastor/wife/mother, spoke with vehemence about reclaiming our connection to a Jesus who interacted richly with women, even in the male-centered texts passed down to us.  It was awesome to listen with women who had never before heard “She” and “Her” repeatedly used to refer to God.

In the 1970s I bought an orange and bright pink felt mini-banner designed by Sr. Corita Kent with the message “He is, and He is here.”  About ten years later, I had to add the letter S to each of the God words to make it read “She is, and She is here.”

Back then I never expected to attend a Mass led by Roman Catholic women priests, to encounter Shekinah while attending a Kabbalat Shabbat, to meet she-roes like Rosemary Ruether or Carolyn McDade, or to find feminine language for God at my local Presbyterian church. 

Today I am more than ever aware of Her immanent presence in the faces of people I meet, in dogs and cats, in plants and layered rocks, in the vast expanses of space.  

Hearing Sr. Elizabeth Johnson speak last week was my most recent breath-taking encounter with the Divine Feminine (she’s the author of She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: Crossroads, 2002).  In a speech titled, “Creation: Is God’s Charity Broad Enough for Bears?” Sr. Beth expressed God’s presence this way: 
“Plants and animals are profoundly related to God in their own right.... the natural world is the dwelling place of God's Spirit, able to speak in its own voice about the glory of its Maker.”
From a man, these words would have had much less impact on me.  From a Catholic theologian who is a woman, they echoed like God Herself speaking to a fallen world and a male-dominated church.

My journey has included much anger at the Christian church and at other religious institutions that oppress women and obscure God’s presence, but when I encounter the Divine Feminine in the faces of Elizabeth Johnson, Gilla Nissan, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, and my own dog, I find hope for the future. 

I expect the Roman Catholic Church to be ordaining women by 2050, and I expect more of us to be taking ordination with a grain of salt by then.  The important thing is that we all learn to see our lives as ordered and ordained by a Divine Presence that is a birthing mother more than a judging father.  

Equal Pay Day

Dear sisters and daughters of the USA--

April 8 is Equal Pay for Women day.  

I just took action with the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Democracy for America. We need to tell Congress to close the gender wage gap by passing the Paycheck Fairness!

It's time to let Congress know that we'll remember in November if they don't support women's rights.

You might want to consider signing the petition on the other end of this link:

On the other hand, you might want to forget it.

What good did it do to fight for ten year to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution?  Not much.  

The Senate passed the ERA, the House passed it, and 35 states ratified it.  But it takes 38 states to ratify an amendment to the Constitution.

So I have no idea whether signing this petition is worth 10 seconds of your time or not.

Whatever.  Think about it.
Anne aka Mom