Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Forum: Women on TV

We thought we'd keep it fun for this week's Friday Forum:

Where are the strong female characters on television? Looking back on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess, were characters on these shows as strong as we remember them? Are there characters like this on TV now?

And what about reality TV - are the women on some of these shows hurting the perception of women?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Questions of My American Identity

CHICKS ROCK! welcomes our next guest blogger, and TWM's newest intern, Bridget:

Bridget is a senior at Vassar College, studying Political Science and Women's Studies. She loves watching movies with her younger brother and playing rugby for her school.

Being American is something I never particularly thought about or questioned before I went to study abroad for a semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. At home, I considered my experience unique, exceptional to the general stereotypes of a red-meat-eating, baseball-loving American. I identified regionally, as a New Yorker first and a liberal arts student second. However, being abroad, an outsider in a foreign country, whose language I was struggling to learn, I was confronted with questions of my own identity.

In the months abroad, a special camaraderie formed between me and my American classmates as we tried to navigate maps of the city, learn appropriate patience when waiting for the street light to change, and taste delicious Danish pastries. They hailed from all across America -- Tennessee, Ohio, and the US/Mexico border. The differences in attitude and social customs that I thought once divided me from people outside of New York dissolved as I began to recognize our commonalities. Coping in the European context, I could not rely on the fixed pose of the fast-paced, hard-nosed New Yorker. From the Danes’ perspective, we weren’t Southerners or New Yorkers, we were Americans. And so my classmates and I depended on each other, united over our confusion of Dane’s obsession with potatoes at every meal, the 4 hours of sunlight, and how Danish does not have an official word for “please.”

Reevaluating my own values, I began to appreciate home. As I compared it to Copenhagen, I realized just how fortunate and proud I am to be a citizen of a country where not everyone wears the same clothes, has the same political beliefs, or celebrates the same holidays. Although my classmates and I have different accents, we all share similar experiences, values, and hopes for a better future. We are lucky to live in an incredibly nuanced and diverse country. Reflecting on my time abroad and watching the inauguration of our new president, I am reminded that, despite our diversity, we are truly unified as a people. I take great pride in introducing myself, no longer as "Bridget from New York," but "Bridget from the USA."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Learning From the Past

While watching the recent Golden Globes and SAG Awards, and with all the Oscar buzz and accolades that Slumdog Millionaire is receiving, I've been thinking a lot lately about my grandfather's contribution to the Indian film industry.

Since childhood, I have heard whispers about my grandfather’s life and film career in India. At age 12, K.D. George left his home state of Kerala to find work after losing his mother and step-mother. He taught himself English, Hindi, and various other languages. He joined the British army, lived in Syria for some time, and learned to edit film and sound recordings. He went on to work in over one hundred films, most notably Chemmeen, the first South Indian film to win the Indian President’s Gold Medal for Best Film in 1965. In spite of his professional achievements, my grandfather was eventually terminated for his bad eyesight, and the financial demands of his greedy father and siblings took a devastating toll on him, my grandmother, and their children. When I lived with him several years before he died, one of the many things I remember is how his silence left me and my family with many unanswered questions. Why didn’t he keep track of the films he was involved with? Was his association with the film industry the reason why he hated movies later in life? Did he have many regrets?

When I started searching for K.D. George on the Internet, I wasn’t expecting to find anything. Among other things, I was surprised to discover that he was mentioned on IMDB for one film. With the help of a few family members, I have started to add more to my grandfather’s web page. It is my small way to pay tribute to his contributions to South Indian cinema. I have also learned how important it is to understand our mistakes, as well as those made in previous generations. I hope my grandfather agrees with me, wherever he is.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Moving Forward with No Direction

The great thing about a new year is what it symbolizes: a fresh start and a chance to move forward.

The awful thing about a new year is what it symbolizes: a fresh start and a chance to move forward.

With all this talk of resolutions, a new administration, hope for the future, and so forth, it certainly is the perfect time to think about your life and reprioritize. One thing I've been thinking a lot about is what I'm going to do next. Right now, I'm lucky to be at a job I really like, and doing enough other things to keep me busy and on my toes. But I know I won't be there forever, and I have to start making decisions about what to do next.

Should I go to grad school and get a PhD in Women's Studies? While that's what I've wanted to do for the longest time now, WST programs are being cut all over the place and I'd like to have a job after getting a PhD. So, should I go to law school? This does seem like a good choice... but do I want to accumulate all that debt if I don't like the high-paying lawyer jobs? Ok, should I forget about school altogether and just keep working my way up the non-profit world? That sounds good and easy... but probably too easy for somebody who loves learning and feels most at home in school. Hmm. So, should I go to grad school and get a PhD in Women's Studies?

This is the debate I have with myself every other day. I go around in circles and have no conclusion other than "this is annoying, I'll figure it out tomorrow."

But all of these months later, I think "tomorrow" is finally here. I still have no idea what to do, but I've given myself until March to decide. Can somebody out there please help me out with advice?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Identity in Ink

At my book signing in Harlem last week, I gave a little talk (eek!) and took questions (double eek!) before the actual signing. It was my first bookstore appearance. I felt very official.

I uttered my remarks, feeling nervous, peeking at my notes probably a little too often. I drew only a small crowd, due to frigid weather and everyone’s inauguration excitement. Still, at question time, the few but faithful really stuck it to me. “How'd you get the idea for the book?” (“Um... that’s what my talk was about. Weren’t you listening?”) “You weren’t alive in 1968, so did you interview people who were?” (“Not really... it’s fiction, not a research paper. I used my imagination.”) “Why'd you use standard English, not Ebonics?” ("Um... no good answer for this, except that I don’t speak Ebonics, so...") You get the idea.

Then came the real kicker: “Do you think there are any identity issues you personally were dealing with in writing this book?”

I almost laughed out loud. The only genuine answer to a question like that is “Yeah. Duh.” I don’t mean to be flip – it’s an excellent question, but challenging to answer meaningfully.

I’m a black woman writing about the civil rights movement, so how could identity exploration not play a role? Fiction, for me, is about imagining myself in various circumstances. I write (and read) to learn. I write about things I love, things that make me nervous or disturb me, or to speak about what’s important to me. That’s forming identity, right?

Besides, I think anyone who writes anything at all deals on some level with identity issues. Whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, intentionally personal or ostensibly objective – what we write has to do with who we are. And trying to figure out who we are. Is that a journey that ever ends? I doubt it. Maybe when you’re old, you just make peace with the things you know about yourself and the things you don’t, but until then, isn’t pretty much everything about defining yourself in relation to the world?

For me, right now, it is. What about you?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Forum: Back in Time

For some of the history buffs out there, or those with a creative imagination:

If you could live for one week at any time in history, when would it be and why?

These should be interesting! Leave your response in the comments.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Link Love for 1/22

The blogosphere has been quite abuzz these past few weeks. Here is just a bit of the online conversation:

Girl w/Pen has a review of the new film, Last Chance Harvey, from a feminist perspective (warning: there are a few spoilers).

Lindsey Pollak has a piece about why it's important to stop bashing Gen Y and instead welcome them into the fold.

Savvy Ladies reminds us that even in this economy, it's a great idea to donate to non-profits, if only for the tax break.'s Women's Rights Blog discusses how equal pay laws designed to help women might negatively impact mothers.

Professor, What If... asks what if mother-wisdom shaped the world?

Don't forget to leave a comment with the things you've been reading and writing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mother India Beckons

I think the universe is giving me signs to go to India this year. Slumdog Millionaire deservedly won many awards this year, and there is a great PBS series entitled The Story of India, which covers the beginnings and progression of Indian civilization, starting with the earliest human migrations from Africa, to the present day. It is my parents’ country of origin, and strangers usually identify me as Indian, even though I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been there. Still, I feel drawn to Mother India, and it doesn't have much to do with my familial connections to the country. The diversity of its people, their religions, cultures, politics, climates, and landscapes makes the Indian subcontinent a fascinating place to visit again and again.

The last time I spent significant time in the country was in December 2004, and I made a promise to myself and to a few family members to return two years later. I broke that promise, much to my dismay, but I did go back for a week in 2007 for a friend’s wedding. Obviously, seven days is not enough time to do the kind of traveling I yearn to do, which is taking the train from the North to the South. I will experience Mother India’s chaos the way a traveler is meant to using that mode of transportation: its natural beauties, art, music, pollution, corruption, despair, and hope.

I have a love/hate relationship with my parents’ country; it is formed from my family’s stories, my own observations of Indian people (from within and outside India), and the news. While my mother is wary of the country because of her difficult childhood, my father hopes to return to Mother India after retirement, so he can live out the rest of his days surrounded by coconut trees, peacocks, and mosquitoes. As a cultural outsider, I see it as a place to experience history and progress simultaneously, while learning more about myself in the process. India is a mess that some choose to do without; I choose the opposite.

Do you have similar relationships with other countries?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our Moment and Time

The significance of today's events are not lost on me. The fact that it's all happening the day after a national holiday honoring one of the most significant Civil Rights leaders is also not lost on me. (Of course, even if it was, the pundits and newscasters would still keep reminding me every five minutes.)

And while I am feeling just as much emotion and excitement as everyone else, I can't help but think of what it'll be like a year from now...

The dust will have settled. The novelty of this moment will have passed. We'll be left with our memories of today and our steps toward the future. So we have to start now.

As most know by now, social responsibility and civic engagement are very important to me. I look at moments like these, rare as they are, as a chance for people to reach out to each other and consider new ways of becoming active. Before the freshness of the new year passes, I want to commit to rising up to the challenge myself. Starting this year and growing as these four years go by, I am going to read more newspapers, familiarize myself with local politics, read up on the legislation I normally ignore, and take every chance I get to teach others about what I learn and encourage them to do the same.

I hope you all take some time to reflect today and that you'll join me in making a commitment to play our part in making this country ours. In the words of our new President, "This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time..."

(Cross-posted at Jump off the Bridge)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Beyond Our Dead Heroes

Somehow, I always feel a little bit prouder of my existence and heritage on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I look forward to it every year, and not only because I associate the day with freedom from work!

Even though we label it with Dr. King’s name, I don’t think today is just about one man’s life and legacy. Instead, I think it should be a day when we celebrate all the heroes – famous and unnamed – who fought for racial equality.

Why? Because although Dr. King was a dynamic, irreplaceable leader, he didn’t walk alone. I’m sure he would be the first to affirm that the civil rights struggle was a movement of the people. He always thought in terms of “we,” not “me.”

Now, having written a children’s novel, I find myself wondering how this holiday affects others. At a writers’ conference in Harlem, I heard parents lamenting the lack of black characters in children’s books. One comment really resonated with me. A frustrated mom said: “books targeted to black children are always about the same dead heroes.” She said, “Holding up these heroes over and over makes regular kids feel inadequate. It’s a model that most can never live up to, so many of them stop trying.”

I couldn’t disagree. I remember, as a kid, how much I looked up to Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, etc. It seemed to me that we needed a lot more heroes that would keep changing the world. Only as an adult have I come to understand that it’s not heroes who made the history. It never has been any one person alone.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we should all get to share in the celebration. For me, it’s easier to imagine myself standing in the crowd than being the one up front. But I also want to believe that even my own work makes a difference in the world, and that I hold a little piece of our collective victories. So, let today be MLK Day Plus!

Who are the unsung heroes in your life?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Forum: Literary Likes & Dislikes

While we're celebrating the book launch our very own CHICKS ROCK! blogger, Kekla, we were curious about your own reading and writing habits.

What are some of your favorite books and why? What about favorite authors? If you're a writer, what do you like to write about?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Year's Resolution: Make Your Voice Heard

Now that we're in a brand new year, we wanted to remind you how you can make your voice heard here on CHICKS ROCK!

Remember, this is your space too, and we love hearing from you. So check out the guest blogger guidelines and submit an entry. You never know, perhaps you'll love it and get bitten by the blogging bug.

As always, you can also submit ideas for the Friday Forum and Feature, or comment on a post when you have something to say.

Make it your resolution this year to speak up and speak out!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Giving Up On Grudges

We all know at least one person who has taken advantage of us. It could be someone who never paid back a loan, flirted with your significant other, or talked about you behind your back to others, but acts like nothing is wrong in front of you... we are all familiar with these undesirable scenarios. Now that 2009 is here, I have begun the difficult process of coming to terms with those who have "done me wrong," even if I don’t get to see or speak to them directly. It is like unloading the baggage for a fresh start and it is something I strongly recommend to anyone who is burdened by their grudges.

Personally, I find them to be a waste of my energy, something that I can channel into something else. Recently, I came face-to-face with a relative who has been less than kind to me in the past. When I saw him during the holidays, I was surprised to find that my grudge was gone. Maybe it was because I had time to work through my feelings, but I was gratified not to be tense in his presence anymore. True, we won’t have a close relationship, and he will never apologize for his wrongdoings. I still feel peaceful knowing that I no longer carry the burden of the grudge on my shoulders.

I recently came to terms with a long-time friend, which has been more difficult because it is more recent. She had (or has) a bigger grudge against me than I did towards her, and I decided to bring it up so we could work through our issues. Since we have been friends for long time, I decided to initiate the effort so we can save our friendship. While things between us are still tenuous, I remain hopeful that our relationship will be free from grudges in the future.

How do you handle grudges? Are you able to let things go?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Man-Free Weekend

Like most other 20something women, I love spending time with my friends. We get to let our hair down, relax, and enjoy each other's company. It's rare that a large group of us has time to get together all at once, so when we do it's a great treat.

There are some downsides, of course, such as clashing personalities or small gripes that come up. But one of my biggest annoyances is how much time we spend talking about men. We are all intelligent, mature, successful women and it confuses me that we have to spend so much time talking about men. It's not that I think there's never a time to talk about relationships, I just get tired of it being the #1 thing we bring up when we get together.

So when we were preparing for a weekend away together, I announced our new rule well in advance: there could be no talk of relationships. We could talk about work, friends, family, random thoughts, etc. but could not directly talk about relationships, marriage or the recently-popular "so who's the next to have kids?"

Now that our weekend is over, I'm happy that it was (mostly) a success. There were still times where the blurry line into "relationship talk" was crossed, but for the most part, everyone stuck to the rule. I think the time was better for it because we got to know each other better in a way that had nothing to do with whatever drama is going on with the men in our lives.

What about your circle of friends? Do you think you spend too much time talking about romantic relationships? If so, does it bother you? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, January 12, 2009

All the Time in the World

When I was in Zambia this past spring, one of the things that struck me, culturally, was the different sense of time people have there. Their pace of life is much slower than ours. Much steadier. People move through the days with a casual confidence that there will be enough time to do what needs to be done. This difference is born of circumstance, of course, but it is a matter of attitude, as well.

On the trip, we had ample time built in to just spend time with our hosts and with each other. For us, at first it felt like we weren’t doing anything. We're used to being busy, because in New York, there's always somewhere to be and something to do other than where you are and what you’re doing. But the Zambians seemed to lack awareness that there is a constant shortage of time. Taking time to relate to one another is important to them. We even encountered people who had walked dozens of miles to visit friends or to do business together, with no appointment scheduled in advance. If their host wasn’t home, they simply sat down to wait.

Returning home, I asked myself when was the last time I dropped by a friend’s apartment unannounced. I came up with NEVER. No, I’d always call first to be sure she was home, not headed out or cleaning or working or watching a favorite show, so that my presence wouldn’t disturb her schedule too much. I’d call, and maybe we’d arrange a coffee date for the following week, a time to catch up briefly between my doctor’s appointment and her lunch meeting. We’d get together as planned. After she dashed off, if she’s a friend I didn’t see often, I might even pat myself on the back for making time to sustain this relationship. I’d probably subconsciously weigh how much I enjoyed the time with her against how hard it was to find a mutually-agreeable place and time to talk—all so I could decide how soon I ought to contact her to do it again. Or maybe I’d wait until she called me...

What would you like to make more time for in your life?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday Forum: Lessons Learned

As we're still experiencing the start of the new year, it's good to reflect back on the things we learned in the past year.

What did you learn about yourself in 2008 that you will apply to 2009? Similarly, if you made any major mistakes last year, how will you avoid making them this time around?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Link Love for 1/8

Even though most of the blogosphere has been quiet for the past several weeks, things are starting to pick up again. Check out some of the posts below to see what's been on people's mind so far this year.

Girl with Pen shared a great PSA about fatherhood involvement.

NYWSE blog comments on the rise of women entrepreneurs and the supportive community they're building for each other and themselves.

The Curvature has an important post about how we can help combat teen dating violence.

Global Comment comments on the significance of having the first black President and a black family as the primary residents of the White House.'s Women's Rights Blog is also thinking about the soon-to-be first family, specifically about the girls' experience in their new school.

Lindsey Pollak has the first three of twelve career resolutions to help you find your dream job in 2009.

Enjoy this first round-up of the new year, and don't forget to leave your own links in the comments section.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year... Now What?

In the middle of remembering to write 2009 rather than 2008 on checks and other correspondence, I can’t help thinking about past transitions from one year to the next. I start each year with different plans and hopes, some a bit fanciful, others more realistic and yet still challenging to achieve. Last year, I was looking forward to my trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru and getting a job so I wouldn’t be broke after the fact. A year later, I have fond memories of the trip and I am working, which is a blessing in the current economic situation we are living with now. Now that 2009 is here, I hope to make meaningful decisions that will ensure lasting success in my professional life. Whether I remain in publishing, go into teaching, or get into public service is still not certain, but I hope I can look back at 2009 with a sense of accomplishment in this aspect of my life.

I am also committed to getting healthy this year. While I have no desire to become “super skinny,” I am aware my family history of heart disease and diabetes puts me at risk. This past Christmas made me realize how important regular exercise and a consistent healthy diet really are. I discovered that just cutting out soda, sugary drinks, and junk food is not enough for me; I have to eat smaller food portions, and exercise every day. My sluggish metabolism has bothered me in the past, but it took a few random moments this past holiday season to really motivate me to do something about it. I am happy to say that I am sticking to a fitness regime and diet that seems to be working for me.

These aren’t really resolutions. I personally feel that calling them by that name subconsciously makes me less likely to follow through with them. I would rather call them plans or projects, because I am one myself... I am a work-in-progress, and always will be.

What are your plans/projects for 2009?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Gutsy Resolution

CHICKS ROCK! readers are no strangers to my struggles with finding my voice and owning it. That, coupled with my other major struggle to focus on myself, has led to a very nebulous yet incredibly important resolution for this new year: to listen to myself.

Being silenced by several people throughout my life has gotten me in the habit of silencing myself. Rather than just doing it during regular, spoken communication with others, I am realizing more and more that I've been doing it to my own inner voice. I find myself looking back in situation after situation and thinking to myself "I should've trusted my gut." For me, a life of regrets is simply not an option, and that's the road I see myself going down if I keep betraying my instincts.

So this year, I want to listen to myself as much as I can. When my body is hungry, when my brain needs a break, when my muscles are sore, when work is taking all of my energy, I will listen to myself. If I am uncomfortable, happy, sad, disappointed, or overwhelmed by unclear emotions, I will be honest with myself and others about how I'm feeling. And when faced with difficult decisions or feelings of ambivalence, I will go with my gut.

As with anything, I'm sure this is much easier said than done. Thankfully, I've got people around me who will constantly check on me to see how I'm progressing. Even though it's in some ways a very personal resolution, I know I can't do it completely alone.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year, New Book: The Rock and the River

I'm kicking off my posts for 2009 with a little shameless self-promotion. This is a most exciting week for me. Well, let me not understate: This is a most exciting year for me. My first novel hits bookstores tomorrow!

A few words about the book:
The Rock and the River is a young adult novel set in 1968 Chicago. Thirteen-year-old Sam finds himself torn between his father (a leader in the nonviolent civil rights movement), and his older brother, Stick (a member of the Black Panther Party). Will Sam follow his father or his brother? His mind or his heart? The rock or the river?

It's hard to know what to say about the book coming out. To me, it's so momentous. But I find it difficult to express to people outside my profession what the inner world of writing and publishing is like: unpredictable, slow-moving, fraught with challenges and rejection, yet at the same time utterly tied to your soul. I feel about this book the way I imagine I might feel about my own child -- it came from within me, I've nurtured it, helped it grow, learned from it, fought with it, fought for it, and finally it's big enough to move on its own into the world.

My mind is suddenly flooded with all the things I could say, about the writing process, the topic of the book, my inspirations, the adventures of being an author. Yes, there's much more I could say, and I will -- in future posts. For now, I'm allowing the excitement to overtake me. The holiday season, which typically blows by in one deep breath, has been agonizingly slow as I've awaited the book release. It's finally here, and I'm beyond thrilled!

That's what's new with me... so, what's new with you in this new year?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Friday Forum: New Year, New You!

Welcome to a brand new year! As everyone is settling in and getting comfortable with saying it's 2009(!!), we were wondering about your New Year's resolutions!

Have you made any resolutions yet for this year? If so, what are they, and if not, what are you thinking about? Or, do you avoid making resolutions altogether?

Whatever the answer, let us know!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

All of us at The Women's Mosaic and CHICKS ROCK! wish you a very Happy New Year! Let's celebrate 2008 and look forward to 2009!

Disclaimer: Blog entries express the opinions of the respective Bloggers/Contributors/Authors/Commenters solely, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Women's Mosaic. As host and manager of CHICKS ROCK!, TWM acts solely as a provider of access to the internet and not as publisher of the content contained in bloggers' posts and cannot confirm the accuracy or reliability of individual entries. Each participant is solely responsible for the information, analysis and/or recommendations contained in her blog posts.
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