Showing posts from 2012

Pondering the Pertinence of Politics

As a sociologist specializing in social inequalities, I constantly ponder the politics of representation in my writing. For whom am I empowered or entitled to speak? I’m committed to representing a world that looks a lot like the one in which I live. To that end, I want to feature in my stories women and men of color, non-straight folks, people of differing appearances and body sizes, and individuals with varying abilities, but can I? Should I?
Because of all this, my current literary project is kicking my booty. For some reason that I’m pretty sure borders on masochism, I decided this summer to pen a science fiction/fantasy/romance novel that focuses on the interactions of my world’s social outcasts, who just happen to be people with disabilities. I’m 40 thousand words into my novel, and although I’m in profound love with my characters, I also write the words with a burden of deep unease.
Earlier this week, I ran across a powerful blog entry that emphasized the responsibility of auth…

It's Not Only Vamps Who Need Blood

Then do I have a proposition for you: DONATE BLOOD. Seriously. Donating blood turns ordinary folks into life-saving super-s/heroes, it takes as little as a half-hour, and there’s just something so gothalicious about saving lives while watching the red stuff flow.
Vampire lovers of the world, let’s be honest: A human walking toward us with a syringe in their hand and a gleam in their eyes is the closest we will ever really come to the erotic, soul-stealing kiss of a vampire. Grab it while you can. And hey, I have it on good authority that donating blood hurts a lot less than having two humanoid fangs pierce your jugular.
Plus, donating blood also earns you the coolest accessory known to modern civilization: the colored bandage. Let’s take me, for example. I happen to super-duper like pink. (Think, like, eight-year-old, middle-class White girl with a pe…

Halloween Costumes for the Authorially-Inclined

The veil grows thin between our worlds. A time of soul-chilling horror draws nigh. We can avert our eyes, we can ignore the terror turning our bones into icicles. Yet the reality remains.
I refer, of course, to the agony of Halloween parties.
Okay, maybe the prospects of costumes and crowds and socializing don’t shamble menacingly through your noggin like freshly-animated, flesh-craving cadavers. Nonetheless, for other authors who, like me, have mummified themselves in denial only to find Halloween soirees have snuck up behind them, below I humbly submit a few literature-inspired costume ideas.
1. Your book. Just because it’s Halloween doesn’t mean you have to stop shamelessly promoting yourself! This can be as easy as two pieces of cardstock or cardboard slung over your shoulders like a sandwich board. The front, of course, mirrors one of your books’ covers. 2. A character from one of your novels or novellas. For me, for example, I could don some jeans, a black shirt, some butt-kicki…

Exercising Our SI Muscles

The term “sociological imagination” (SI) comes from C. Wright Mills’ 1959 book by the same name. “Sociological imagination” is, essentially, locating personal issues within their social contexts in order to further analyze them. Sociologists frequently reference Mills and the SI, not only because the concept encourages us to engage more critically with our social and cultural worlds but because Mills rode a motorcycle and made nerdy sociologists look slightly cooler.
Sounds fun, right? (The SI, not the motorcycle.) Here’s the snag: We live in the U.S., which is an incredibly individualistic nation. Individual freedoms? Personal determinism? Emphasizing the rights of individuals above those of the masses? Tic, tac, and toe! As a result, we tend to address our social worlds solely in terms of individual rights and choices. If someone is in dire straits, it must be because they screwed up, right? What kind of dismal childhood did they have, anyway? How might we exorcise their personal we…

An Open Message to the Bullies

The fatosphere lit up like a dynamite-encrusted birthday cake last week when a CBS anchor, Jennifer Livingston, addressed on air a man who wrote her a letter chastising her for setting a bad example for viewers. Her transgression? Being too fat. Her on-air response was intimate, eloquent, and powerful. She spoke of the pain his message had caused her and urged other victims of bullying to honor their own strength and worth.
Shortly thereafter, Ragen Chastain, of Dances with Fat acclaim, started the Better than the Bullies Campaign, which includes videos and letters from victims of weight bullying to their victimizers. As she writes on the site, “We are standing up, we are fighting back, we are better than the bullies.”
Like most fat kids, I was bullied during my school years. Because I support Ragen, because this is National Anti-Bullying Month, and because I kinda like me and feel somewhat eager to share the good feelings, I made my own video. My eternal thanks to Kris Owen, artist an…

Expanding Our Verbal Repertoire

I love words the way painters must adore colors and musicians cherish music notes. I honor the way they look, the dots and lines and whorls. I’m grateful for their heroic, and doomed, attempts to make concrete what is ultimately abstract and immeasurable. Their lonely collections of letters, of solidified ambiguity, of contentiousness between aural and visual, of confined epistemologies and solidified prejudices: I heart them all.
If you, like me, think of each word as a weapon in your arsenal, as a different color in your painter’s palette, then you’ll appreciate what I’ve decided to do for myself. Below is a list of words I’ve encountered from time to time and yet never manage to staple to my long-term memory. Heck, maybe the public acknowledgement of my poor verbal retention will help shame me into memorizing these elusive little buggers. Fingers crossed.
I grabbed these definitions from (unmarked) and Merriam Webster online (marked with an asterisk).
Assiduous: marked…

Trapped in Internet Addiction?, or, My New IUD

Hi, my name is Elle, and I have Internet Use Disorder (IUD). I didn't know I suffered this affliction till today, and, well, to be honest, I’m not sure I “suffer,” per se. I stumbled across this article, ironically published online, which discusses IUD (tell me I’m not the only one who finds the acronym a little—disconcerting), a new disorder freshly added to the forthcoming DSM-V. According to the article, you know you’re an IUDer when you identify with a bunch of the following behaviors: a preoccupation with the Internet; withdrawal when not in contact with your beloved Internet; spending huge amounts of time, often at the expense of other activities, online; and using the Internet to “replace” human interaction.
Yes, yes, and yes. Okay, granted, I’m not superglued to my computer screen 24/7. I read a lot, thanks mostly to my beloved Kindle, a brilliant, candy-like machine that allows me to browse Amazon and buy books with the press of my finger against the screen. Just one litt…

I Make My Own News... Literally

Because my three faithful readers deserve to suffer as much as my students through my attempts at humor, below is a goofy, fake news story I wrote to fill a PowerPoint slide for my Sociology of Mass Media course. We're discussing newspapers and news this week. 
Enjoy, or at least try not to hurt yourself rolling your eyes.

Rapid City, SD      Local authorities are on the hunt for Elle Hill, a local sociology instructor, for her participation in questioning media ethics. Hill, who teaches a course entitled “Sociology of Mass Media,” was quoted by one of her students as saying, “We've turned our mass media, major sources of knowing and understanding, into money-making machines, and this makes news and information into commodities. Should news be something purchasable, something shaped by market forces rather than human decency?” “I was like, ‘whoa,’” one student, who asked to be called “Moe,” commented. “Maybe we should call the authorities. I …

Making My Subliminal Messages, Well, Liminal

You know those YouTube videos everyone watches about the hidden sexual messages in Disney movies? I’m like that. Seriously. Just like those smirking Disney animators, I’m all sneaky and smug, giggling into my clenched fist as I tuck subliminal messages into my novels.
Subliminal message #1: Race doesn’t exist. No, really, it doesn’t. I don’t mean this in a whack-job, White-supremacist, or even Colbertesque way. I mean, scientifically speaking, race has no biological basis. It’s a totally made-up concept. That doesn’t, of course, mean, race has no meaning; of course it does. It just means we made it up. So, knowing this, it’s hugely important for me to, at the very least, include a lot of racial and ethnic diversity and, if possible, maybe even challenge notions of race.
Subliminal message #2: Looksism is so 1980s. Judging beauty based solely on physical features is, well, partial. To reinforce this, I build characters that don’t embody cultural beauty ideals and that see one another as …

Fantastic Reality, or Realistic Fantasy?

I love Disney. Lifetime movies make me blubber like a baby. Heck, if they’re gooshy enough, Hallmark cards turn my eyes all shiny and moist. I’m a romance author, which means I have to be a hopeless romantic, right? Yeah, but, but...
But in my day job, I teach sociology. Not just any sociology: social inequalities. You want to know statistics about gender income equalities? Interested in discussing looksism? Dying to hear all about racial microaggressions? I’m your woman.
Given my two very different vocations, it’s inevitable that I experience some workplace confusion and ambivalence. For example, in the classroom, I have been known to say, “Jews report the highest rates of hate crimes perpetratedagainst them.” Silence. “Hey, you want to look at pictures of puppies?” Is it any wonder, then, that I constantly grapple with how much reality to stick in my romances? I’m a huge fan of escapism, of romantic conventions, of the predictability and simplicity of happily-ever-afters. Fan? I rely