Cartoon: Where’s The Fat Shaming? (With Becky Hawkins)

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It’s another collaboration with the marvelous Becky Hawkins! This is the sixth political cartoon Becky and I have done together; you can see the previous five here. (Becky and I also co-create a webcomic called SuperButch, about a lesbian superhero in the 1940s).

In any public discussion of fat acceptance – whether it’s on some TV talking heads show, or in some terrible backwater of Reddit – you’re going to hear the concern, “what if fat people start accepting themselves? Won’t that sap their motivation to change?” Sometimes it’s said politely, by people who used even tones and say “of course we’re all against fat shaming but…” Sometimes it’s more above-board, like the person in this comic strip. But it always comes up.

And, honestly, I’d be over the moon if our culture got to a point where fat people aren’t feeling shamed. But as a concern in this day and age, “lack of fat shaming” is ludicrous. There is literally no part of culture a fat person can go to avoid fat shaming. It’s like campaign ads in October, or coffee shops in Portland.


This cartoon has four panels.

A woman is seating in a coffee shop, gesturing at something on her laptop screen that’s annoyed her, as she rolls her eyes. In this and the next two panels, the woman is addressing the reader.
WOMAN: I hate it when fat people complain about “fat shaming.”

The same woman, a slightly closer shot, as she pounds a fist on the table in front of her.
WOMAN: Obesity is a crisis! American can’t afford coddling fat people any more!

A close up of the woman, as she makes “air quotes” with her fingers.
WOMAN: We’re all so “politically correct” that fat people are getting the message that it’s okay to be fat! The problem is that fat people aren’t being shamed!

New scene. A fat person sits in her home, holding up a smartphone. A friend of hers, with a concerned expression, is on the couch next to her. A flat screen TV is on the wall in front of her; a smiling news anchor is speaking, and there’s a graphic of carrots onscreen next to him. There’s a magazine lying on the table next to the sofa.
The magazine, the news guy on the TV, the smart phone, and the friend all share a single word balloon, which has the word SHAME in huge letters.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Fat, fat and more fat | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: The Tax Cut Cycle

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I’m fascinated by cycles, and I’ve done several cartoons before attempting a circular layout. I think it’s worth doing, because it’s important to realize how many things in politics do become self-perpetuating cycles.

It’s also (to me) an interesting technical question. Comics are, by nature, rectangular (or square); magazines pages are rectangular, images for posting on the web are rectangular. So how can a circular cartoon be made to work with a rectangular image area? And what to do with the somewhat awkward center area that usually results from doing pie-slice-shaped panels? And what to do with the empty areas outside the circle? I always find it interesting to try and solve these problems.

The issue this cartoon looks at is one that I find immensely frustrating, like virtually all the progressive Democrats I know. The Republican party continually uses the deficit as an excuse to say no progressive legislation can be afforded (and indeed, to argue for making huge cuts); but as soon as they’re in charge, they blow up the deficit with enormous tax cuts and large (often military) expenses.

Like I said: Frustrating.


This cartoon is a circle. At the center of the circle is the title of the cartoon: “The Tax Cut Cycle.” Four panels are in the circle; arrows indicate that the panels are to be read clockwise.

Two men, one in a collared button-up shirt and carrying a clipboard, the other wearing glasses and a necktie, are speaking cheerfully to the reader.
CLIPBOARD: Now that the budget looks okay, the GOP has a plan to cut taxes for Americans (especially the rich ones).
GLASSES: Don’t worry! This definitely won’t increase the deficit!

An arrow leads clockwise from this panel to

A newspaper (“The Weekly Daily”) shows the headline “Deficit SOARS.” A graph on the front page of the newspaper shows a trend line heading upward.

An arrow leads clockwise from this panel to

Clipboard and Glasses – Glasses now looking a great deal more malevolent – are smiling and speaking to the readers. Clipboard is shrugging in a “what ya gonna do?” gesture.
GLASSES: Despite our huge tax cuts, the deficit still went way up!
CLIPBOARD: So now we have to cut social security! Gosh, what a sad outcome.

An arrow leads clockwise from this panel to

Two people in business wear, a man and a woman, are talking. They look unhappy.
MAN: So now we put our priorities on hold to fix their deficit?
WOMAN: We’re Democrats – it’s what we do.

An arrow leads clockwise from this panel, back to panel 1, restarting the cycle.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics | 3 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, That’s A Photo Not A Painting Edition

Uralkali Potash Mine in Berezniki, Russia. Photo: Edward Burtynsky.

  1. I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave – Mother Jones
    “My brief, backbreaking, rage-inducing, low-paying, dildo-packing time inside the online-shipping machine.” A very disturbing article; thanks to Grace for the link.
  2. For-Profit Firefighting Was Terrible for America. Climate Change Is Bringing It Back.
    “Welcome to our climate future: disasters will get worse, and the rich will pay to sit them out.”
  3. Is a “Ladies’ Lingerie” Joke Harmless or Harassment? – The Atlantic
  4. Trump’s immigration policy is scaring families off food stamps, study finds – Vox
    A completely predictable outcome.
  5. “I Don’t Want to Shoot You, Brother”
    Interesting longread about a police officer who was fired for not firing his gun at an armed suspect.
  6. Evaluating the One-in-Five Statistic: Women’s Risk of Sexual Assault While in College – The Journal of Sex Research (via SciHub).
  7. No, BDS Is Not Anti-Semitic – Peter Beinart – The Forward
  8. The unbelievable tale of a fake hitman, a kill list, a darknet vigilante… and a murder | WIRED UK
  9. Porn Docs and Humiliating Women | Noah Berlatsky on Patreon
    What faux-forced sex porn and anti-porn documentaries have in common.
  10. Abrams pulls controversial graphic novel about a suicide bomber — The Beat
  11. Psychology’s Replication Crisis Is Real, Many Labs 2 Says – The Atlantic
    “With 15,305 participants in total, the new experiments had, on average, 60 times as many volunteers as the studies they were attempting to replicate. The researchers involved worked with the scientists behind the original studies to vet and check every detail of the experiments beforehand.”
  12. The new lawsuit challenging Georgia’s entire elections system, explained – Vox
    “Each of these issues fueled their own series of lawsuits (several of them successful) in the weeks before and after the election, but this latest lawsuit cites them collectively to make a larger point: Georgia’s current election system created an unconstitutional series of obstacles that are disproportionately likely to disadvantage, and in some cases completely disenfranchise, voters of color.”
  13. It’s Time to Retire the Media’s Sad Transgender Trope – Rewire.News
    “Transgender writers shouldn’t have to perform sadness or pain just to get published.”
  14. They’re Made of Meat
    Fun, very short science fiction story by Terry Bisson. (Thanks, Mandolin!)
  15. Gender pay gap: new report says it’s much worse than you’ve heard – VoxRather than looking at an annual wage gap, they measured a 15-year wage gap, which was 49 cents for every dollar men made. The difference is due to women taking more time off (usually for caretaking), and also because women’s wages are penalized more for taking time off than men’s.
  16. A Most American Terrorist: The Making Of Dylann Roof | GQ
    A Black reporter (who is an excellent writer) investigates Roof’s life.
  17. Who Does She Think She Is?
    Laurie Penny on harassment (so, content warning). “The internet does not hate women. The internet doesn’t hate anyone, because the internet, being an inanimate network, lacks the capacity to hold any opinion whatsoever. People hate women, and the internet allows them to do it faster, harder, and with impunity.”
  18. Researchers built a smart dress to measure how often women are groped at clubs — Quartzy
    Thanks to Grace for the link. “In just under four hours, the [three] women are touched a combined 157 times.”
  19. Dog trying to steal another dog! (Video).
  20. Women cut their hair short for Facebook likes from other women who secretly think they look ugly, Red Pill doofus explains :: We Hunted The Mammoth
    It’s so hard to think of a cartoon about this guys that 1) would be explicable for people who aren’t already aware, and 2) would be worst than the reality.
  21. Purdue accused of ‘chilling’ retaliation for sexual assault reports
  22. I love this cartoon by Jen Sorenson.

Posted in Link farms | 1 Comment  

Cartoon: If Global Warming Is Real, Then Explain All This Snow!

If you like these cartoons, please help me make more by supporting my patreon. A $1 pledge really matters to me.

I wrote this cartoon months ago… and then realized that it shouldn’t be released until after the first snowfall of the year, so put it in a (virtual) drawer for a while.
The cartoon reflects my growing skepticism about the utility of logic and evidence as methods of persuasion, especially regarding an issue like climate change. I used to be a great believer in the value of logical argumentation; I would spend hours trying to argue with people, I was on the debate team in college, etc..

But my faith in debate has, I’m sorry to say, faded. Climate change denialism is not an evidence-based position in the first place, and evidence will not cause most people who hold that position to shift it.

I still try to be civil, and with the right person I can enjoy a good debate. But emphasizing that sort of exchange as the only legitimate way to make change, as some people do, is an unrealistic position at best (and a self-indulgent, privileged position at worst).

It’s not that people never change their minds; sometimes huge portions of the public change their minds on an issue with surprising speed (as happened with same-sex marriage). But why people change their minds is a lot more complicated than the “public debate” model assumes.

* * *

This was a hard one to draw! Drawing a snowstorm is a challenge, for me, and I had to experiment a bunch. I added a lot more solid blacks in the backgrounds just to have some areas that the white snowflakes would clearly show against. I struggled to figure out how to draw waves on a beach with snow looking at the beach from the water (it’s rare that I can’t find a reference photo for something, but in this case my googling skills were not up to the task).

Still, adding the snowflakes was like a big layer of static on top of the images. I ended up adding a greater variety of colors than I’ve been using on my strips lately, to make it easier for readers to see what’s going on. (I prefer the way limited color looks – I think it’s prettier and also more distinctive-looking – but clear storytelling is a higher priority).

(While drawing this comic, I’d sometimes glance out the window and feel surprised that the ground outside wasn’t covered in snow.)

(This isn’t deep, but I really like the snowman playing with a smartphone in panel five.)

Thanks to the folks who are supporting my Patreon! I couldn’t make an oddball cartoon like this one without the support I get from y’all, and it means so much to me. Extra thanks to $10 patron N.K. Jemisin, who is also thanked on the sidebar. N.K. (who needs no introduction from me) is an amazing novelist; if you haven’t read her books, do yourself a favor.

Here’s the graph that’s partly visible in panel 2. The graphic was created by Mike Shibao for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

Related link: Does cold weather disprove global warming?

This cartoon has six panels.

Two women stand outside a building. It is snowing heavily; the ground is covered with snow, and there’s a snowman in the foreground. One woman has red hair and is wearing a down vest, while the other has a red jacket and glasses. The Readhead is talking cheerily with one hand raised in a dismissive “get outta here” sort of gesture; Red Jacket is doing the “explaining hand” thing (upturned palm at a bit above waist height).
REDHEAD: Global warming can’t be real! Look at all this snow!
RED JACKET: I can see why you’d think that, but can I try to change your mind?

The two characters have apparently gone somewhere sheltered from the snow. Red Jacket is holding up a graph, which shows red lines (increasing) and blue lines (decreasing) superimposed over a map of the USA. Redhead is leaning forward to examine the graph.
RED JACKET: …there are still record-setting cold days, but look at this graph – we’re having them much less often nowadays, and we’re having record hot days much more often.

The two characters are standing on a beach, looking out at the water. It’s snowing, and the beach is covered in snow except near the shoreline. There’s foam from a little wave coming in. Red Jacket is gesturing towards the wave, while Redhead scratches her head thoughtfully.
RED JACKET: Looking at the ocean, we can see that there are still some waves coming in even when the tide is heading out.
REDHEAD: So the waves are like cold days?

The two characters are now standing by a building, which has a satellite dish on the roof and the NASA logo on the side. It’s still snowing. Red Jacket is introducing Redhead to a third woman, who is wearing a white coat, glasses, and a knit hat. Redhead is listening attentively.
RED JACKET: …now let’s go visit NASA!
NASA PERSON: Hi, ladies! Let’s talk about the difference between climate and weather.

The two characters are back on their won, standing outside a building and talking. It’s still snowing; in the foreground, a snowman appears to be checking their cell phone. Redhead is talking energetically and cheerfully, with her hands spread wide, as Red Jacket listens.
REDHEAD: Wow, that was incredible! You’ve proved your point – cold weather really doesn’t mean global warming isn’t real!

This panel shows Redhead, in the same vest as the previous five panels but with different clothes on under it, talking to a balding man wearing a red scarf. Redhead is in exactly the same pose as in panel 1. Around the corner, unseen by Redhead, we can see Red Jacket looking surprised and annoyed. It’s still snowing.
CAPTION: Literally the next day.
REDHEAD: Global warming can’t be real! Look at all this snow!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Environmental issues | 26 Comments  

Top Ten Border Patrol Excuses For Tear Gassing Babies

If you enjoy these cartoons, please support my Patreon. A $1 pledge really matters to me.

This is actually a many-years-old comic, originally drawn in response to a baby being peppersprayed by cops at a protest in Portland. (I think this was published in Willamette Week, a Portland weekly newspaper).

I never reprinted or reposted this cartoon, because what’s the point? That sort of thing certainly wouldn’t happen again, right?

Aaargh. I really would have preferred that this cartoon never be current again. (Full disclosure: I don’t know if any actual babies were tear gassed, but small children certainly were.)

I took the old cartoon, changed the uniforms from police blue to border patrol green, and relettered a few panels to make it about border patrol agents rather than cops. Frustratingly, most of the panels required no change at all, other than the colors.

Transcript of Cartoon

This cartoon has eleven panels, the first of which is a title panel.

This panel shows A baby crying and a nearby Border Patrol Agent hitting a club into one palm, speaking sternly to the baby. A major portion of the panel is taken up by a caption.
BABY: Waaah!
AGENT: Stop being such a baby about it!

An agent speaks directly to the reader, one hand raised in an “explaining” gesture.
CAPTION: TEN: Wanted to be fair.
AGENT: If I only brutalized adults, that would be discrimination!

A baby in a polka dot onesie is standing, holding out its hands for balance, and smiling as it speaks.
CAPTION: NINE: Baby was giving agents lip.
BABY: Ga goo! Ga fascist pigs! Aa!

A border patrol agent walks away from the viewer, hands behind his back, whistling.
CAPTION: EIGHT: Just following orders.

A baby in a striped onsie is smiling, trying to balance on its feet, and holding a big black ball-shaped bomb with a fuse going “ssssss” in one hand.
CAPTION: SEVEN: It was a terrorist baby!
BABY: Baby wuvs Al Qaeda!

A border patrol agent is holding one hand to his mouth, in a “whoops” gesture.
CAPTION: SIX: Agent mistook tear gas for a nice lollipop.
AGENT: Oopsie!

A border patrol agent speaks directly to the readers, looking stern, shrugging.
CAPTION: FIVE: Just doesn’t like babies.
AGENT: They smell funny.

A baby in a pink onesie is lying on a polka-dot blanket. The baby is wearing a shade visor with a paper that says “press” in it, and is holding a notebook in one hand and a pen in the other.
CAPTION: FOUR: Baby was a reporter.

A border patrol agent poses, one hand’s fingers pressed to his chest, like a pretentious arteest.
CAPTION: THREE: Throwing kids in cells has grown stale.
AGENT: I need room for growth!

A baby, scowling, points a gun aggressively.
CAPTION: TWO: Baby gave agents no choice!
BABY: Eat hot lead, fascists!

A border agent, arms crossed, eyes covered by the bill of his cap, talks to the readers without deigning to look at us.
CAPTION: And the number one excuse is…
AGENT: What makes you think we NEED an excuse?

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Immigration, Migrant Rights, etc | 69 Comments  

Five Favorite Books

It’s always hard to pick a few favorite books. For one thing, I think it’s easy to slip into listing only favorites from childhood, because those formative years are so vividly imprinted on us. For another, I know a lot of authors personally, and I don’t want to hurt any feelings, nor do I want my personal love for an author to bias me in favor of the book (we can call this my Ann Leckie rule).

I’m going to limit my favorites on this list to authors who are deceased, or who I’ve never met personally. …I’m also just going to let the childhood thing go, though, and list some books I’ve loved since I was young.

I’m also limiting this to books with speculative elements, just to make the volume a bit more manageable.

Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee — This was my favorite book through high school. Tanith Lee’s dreamlike, intricate prose reads like a string of jewels with dazzling clarity. I was enamored of the strange world–a merging of utopia and dystopia. In retrospect, I think its treatment of gender was a strong allure. People could design new bodies when they were bored with their existing ones, and switch to male or female and back with minimal fuss. Wouldn’t that be cool?

Beloved by Toni Morrison – I first read this in college. The raw, painful emotion is deeply affecting, and sensorily rendered. It’s beautiful, though also dark and unflinching in its dealings with its intense depiction of the psychological aftermath of slavery. (Also, the poetic passage in the middle is brilliant and weird, and I’m grateful that I was lucky enough to be reading the book in a class where the teacher was able to help us interpret it, because I’m not sure I’d have understood on my own.) Toni Morrison may be the greatest living writer, although of course that’s a silly thing to say, because there is never one “greatest” by an objective criteria. She’s clearly in the top tier of brilliance one way or another, and for my standards, is a strong contender for greatest.

Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler – I’m going to make another “greatest” claim, which is that Octavia Butler is the best and most important science fiction writer of the twentieth century. (Obviously, there are strong arguments that can be made for other people, too.) Lilith’s Brood is, I think, the height of her talent. It’s emotionally vivid, and takes place in a deeply strange world. Butler’s aliens really read like aliens. Like many of her books, Lilith’s Brood considers how humanity might evolve in the future, and whether it’s possible for us to shed our instincts toward violence and xenophobia.

And here are a couple of recent books I’m excited by, written by authors I’ve never met. I don’t know if they will stand in my pantheon forever, but they were books I’ve found impactful in the past few years.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma – A dark horror novel that brilliantly weaves together multiple timelines. It’s told from the perspectives of two teenage girls — one imprisoned for allegedly murdering her stepfather, and the other a ballerina. The ballerina’s best friend has been convicted for murder, and now she’s the first girl’s cell mate. The rendering of the characters is sharp, interesting, and emotionally engaging, and the tightly woven plot of flashbacks and revelations, creates a magnetic, urgent force that draws you through the book.

Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King – It’s sort of random that I picked this book by A. S. King as opposed to one of the other books by A. S. King, almost all of which are excessively brilliant. (The others are merely quite good.) I picked this one because I remember the plot best, and because I argued for its inclusion on the Norton ballot when I was on the jury. This book has a spare, almost aggressive style, which helps illuminate the psychology of the main character. The teenaged main character is a boy who is bullied for seeming insufficiently masculine and socially adept, and I like it when books treat that subject matter seriously and well. I thought it did an excellent job of capturing that trauma, and the reactions it can create.

So, there’s five books, y’all! What are your favorites?

Posted in Recommended Reading, Stuff I like | 14 Comments  

Cartoon: Walter, The Guy Who Thinks Nothing’s Changed Since 1860

If you like these cartoons, please help me make more by supporting my Patreon. A $1 pledge means a lot to me!

This is one of those cartoons that’s based on an annoying thing I’ve seen a bunch of right-wingers say, usually while making excuses for racist GOP policies – that the Democratic party is “the party of slavery.” This is usually said by mindless twitter trolls, but has also been said by President Trump. (Arguably a distinction without a difference.)

The logic is poor. First of all, that the Democratic party had, and almost certainly still has, a racism problem doesn’t exonerate the GOP’s racism problem. There can be more than one racist institution in society at a time.

But second of all – and this, obviously, is the cartoon’s focus – is that the Democrats of 1860 (who did defend slavery) simply aren’t the Democrats of today.

So the question for a cartoon like this one is, will enough of my readers have encountered this ridiculous argument to enjoy a comic strip making fun of it?

Artwise, I had fun drawing this one. There’s definitely something appealing about being able to draw these tiny body characters in full figure. It really gives me an opportunity to try to do expressive body language.  And it makes more room for backgrounds, as well. (The downside is that faces and expressions can’t be as detailed as they would be in strips with close-ups.)

Also, admittedly the car in panel two is really only the front third of a car – but nonetheless, I drew a cartoon car and I’m happy with how it looks! That almost never happens. Now I have to do is learn to draw the back 2/3rds.


This cartoon has four panels.

This panel is mostly the title of the cartoon: “WALTER, THE GUY WHO THINKS NOTHING’S CHANGED SINCE 1860!”
The title is in large, cartoon-style lettering.
At the bottom of the panel we see Walter, a man with black sideburns and a black top hat, wearing an 1860s style suit.
WALTER: What’s a “phone”?

Walter and a woman are on a sidewalk. The woman is walking towards a car that’s parked nearby. Walter is pointing at her and laughing as she looks back in annoyance.
WALTER: How will you move this carriage without any horses? HA!

Walter is walking down a grassy hillside, talking at two women who are walking away from him and trying to ignore him. One of the women is rolling her eyes. Both women are wearing pants.
WALTER: A train that goes from coast to coast? HA! What a fairy tale!
WALTER: Kansas isn’t a state!
WALTER: Why are ladies wearing trousers?

Walter, smiling, is inside a house (or some sort of building, anyway, talking to an annoyed-looking Black man with glasses and a goatee.
WALTER: You can’t call Republicans racist when it’s the Democrats who support slavery! HA!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Race, racism and related issues | 11 Comments  

Haiku Round-up #1

Lately I have been posting haiku to my Patreon.

While I was having trouble writing fiction, a friend of mine showed me a haiku they’d been working on. I couldn’t manage something like a whole story, but writing seventeen syllables of poetry came easily, and felt right.

These are only sort of traditional haiku. For one thing, I used English syllables instead of trying to adapt English words to Japanese morae which are similar to syllables, but not the same. I did use a seasonal reference in the first line of each, but they aren’t necessarily the kind of seasonal imagery that would have been used in a traditional poem. Also, I talked a lot more directly about what I was feeling, instead of using the metaphors to convey it.

However, I did try to convey the moments as I experienced them in that transient moment. I also tried not to revise, to just let them be in the moment they were. I think I cheated a couple of times, though.

I’m going to send out a haiku every few days for a while, at least until I run out of haiku. (I also wrote a couple of cinquains.) They aren’t necessarily in order, and they’re from a bit ago, so they won’t be a read on my direct emotional state, but I hope the words mean something to you

Here are the first nine:

Humid, intruding
hours that won’t shape into days,
heavy, unwelcome.

Night, that bit too hot.
He sweats and works and I don’t
know when night will cool.

Night is cooler now.
Restless nothings pace my mind,
private and anxious.

Bright green against blue.
Another day forthcoming.
I hope it stays bright.

Mimosa blooms fade.
I am content to watch them
this mild afternoon.

Berries dapple leaves.
They and I, windlessly still,
hope we are ripened.

White with slanted sun,
the too-bright sky is stolen
with painful glances.

Smoke taints blue-bellied sky.
All things contain their reverse.
No moment is pure.

School opens again.
I don’t know why I am sad.
Memories, perhaps.

Posted in Poetry, Rachel Swirsky's poetry | 2 Comments  

Q&A on Being a Jewish & Disabled Author

A patron of mine asked me some questions recently about Jewish identity, and writing while Jewish and disabled.

I thought y’all might find the answers interesting. Hopefully, I’m correct!

Are secular Jews overrepresented in the media?

I am personally a secular Jew. I suppose my first question in wondering whether we’re over-represented is — what percentage of self-identified Jews in America are secular? (It also matters what the percentage of secular Jews in media work is, but that seems harder to find.)

I found this here:

“The changing nature of Jewish identity stands out sharply when the survey’s results are analyzed by generation. Fully 93% of Jews in the aging Greatest Generation identify as Jewish on the basis of religion (called “Jews by religion” in this report); just 7% describe themselves as having no religion (“Jews of no religion”). By contrast, among Jews in the youngest generation of U.S. adults – the Millennials – 68% identify as Jews by religion, while 32% describe themselves as having no religion and identify as Jewish on the basis of ancestry, ethnicity or culture. ”

It goes on to say:

“Secularism has a long tradition in Jewish life in America, and most U.S. Jews seem to recognize this: 62% say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and culture, while just 15% say it is mainly a matter of religion. Even among Jews by religion, more than half (55%) say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and culture, and two-thirds say it is not necessary to believe in God to be Jewish. ”

I’m surprised that the percentage of people who think you have to believe in God to be Jewish is that high, actually. There’s a pretty lengthy historical tradition of Jews who participate in their communities without being personally religious. The article does say that Jews who identify as secular now are less likely to be tied into Jewish cultural organizations than other Jews, so I wonder whether there’s an increasing idea that being a secular Jew is the same as being an uninvolved Jew. (I should note that people who convert to being Jews are also definitely Jews whether or not they have the ancestry. Judaism is a desert topping and a floor wax.)

That said, I’m uninvolved in a lot of ways. My grandfather made a decision as a young man to sever himself from his Jewish past. I think this was his reaction to World War II. He never denied being Jewish, or changed his name, or anything like that – but he had no interest in his past as a Jew, or in any of the associated cultural traditions. Our family still exists in the shadow of that decision.

I could try to figure out more about the demographics involved — what percentage of great sci-fi writers, editor, etc, from Christian backgrounds are also secular? Is this a function of Jewishness, or a broader secular cultural trend among people in those industries?

But I feel like the more interesting questions are tangential. What could we gain from having more religiously Jewish creators?

Probably something. My friend Barry writes a series of graphic novels about Hassidic Jews. He himself is a secular Jew, but many Hassidic people have contacted him, grateful for representation of their community that is humanizing and generous. There are clearly religiously Jewish people who are not seeing themselves reflected, or are only seeing themselves reflected in ways that are inaccurate or unkind.

There can be pressure on secular Jews to put their Jewish heritage in the background, especially when antisemitism and white supremacy are on a resurgence. I’ve paid the price for being a Jewish female creator, and it’s a nasty one. So, there’s another point where I think there’s tension over secular Jewish representation in the media–in order to work in the industry, to some extent, we must blend in with Christian normativity.

I had a woman say to me, in all seriousness, in a critique group once, that she was annoyed I had included Jewish rituals in one of my stories. “If I want to read about that kind of thing,” she said, “I’ll just read fantasy.”

I’m not sure this resolves anything (in fact, I’m sure it doesn’t), but those are some of my thoughts.

What about your background and current ideas/beliefs/practices has contributed to your interest in Jewish sci fi?

Right now, I’m more interested in the theological questions of Judaism than I normally am because I have a good friend who is tipping over the border from secular to religious Jew, and his journey is very interesting to me. The way he talks and writes about his burgeoning belief (as opposed to the feeling of irresolution he’d had before) is fascinating; it helps that he’s a very good writer who is fascinating on many topics.

I think my interest in Jewish science fiction stems from my interest in Jewishness itself, which is probably related to my self-identification as Jewish. I’m not sure why I have a strong identification with Judaism — I didn’t have to. As the granddaughter of a secular Jew who tried to cut all connections, I could have just put it aside; my brothers have. Our father is from WASPy blood with deep roots in American history–we’re descended from one of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence–and I could have chosen to identify with that to the exclusion of my Jewish ancestry.

What are you writing about now?

I’m writing a lot about disability. As a disabled person, there’s a lot of rich material to mine–and I still have a lot of unreconciled thoughts about disability, and things I’m figuring out. I think a lot of good writing is produced when the author is still on the edge of revelations, instead of settled.

Many of my previous writing obsessions have been much more externally focused. Of course there’s a hideous amount of dehumanization and violence directed toward disabled people, but for some of us, there’s also an intense personal struggle of identity and self-knowledge that requires a deep investigation of the psyche. That’s where I am right now–fiction about selfhood and perception.


Open Thread and Link Farm, Picture I Took Of My Cat Edition

  1. “I’m not transphobic, but…”: A feminist case against the feminist case against trans inclusivity–Verso
  2. Jet Li says he rejected The Matrix because he didn’t want his kung fu moves digitally recorded | Abacus
    “They could own [my moves] as an intellectual property forever. So I said I couldn’t do that.” Li’s objection makes perfect sense. But it would be amazing, from an archival standpoint, for such a full record of Li’s moves to exist.
  3. ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES: The Happy Hour For Birds?
    Birds who eat fermenting berries off the ground get drunk.
  4. Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, and the rigging of American politics – Vox
    This has become a very central issue to my thinking – that the system is enormously rigged against Democrats, and Republicans are determined to use that advantage to increase that advantage.
  5. The Good Place: Watch the exact moment that the cast found out about the big Season One twist |
    Thanks to Mandolin for this link. And also for the happy hour for birds link.
  6. U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It. – The New York Times
    I was particularly struck by the way that Republican members of congress went to bat to protect right-wing domestic terrorists, forcing Homeland Security to withdraw a report on right-wing extremism. A similar report on domestic left-wing extremism was not objected to by anyone.
  7. Ideas Have Consequences: The Impact of Law and Economics on American Justice
    “After attending economics training [at George Mason University], participating judges use more economics language, render more conservative verdicts in economics cases, rule against regulatory agencies more often, and render longer criminal sentences.”
  8. Even janitors have noncompetes now. Nobody is safe. – The Washington Post
    In this particular case, the company dropped it’s lawsuit against its former janitor after it became a news story. Which is nice – but doesn’t alter the larger problem.
  9. The Mythical Whiteness of Trump Country | Boston Review
    A criticism of J.D. Vance’s book, and in particular it’s racial politics.
  10. Scientist in remote Antarctic outpost stabs colleague who told him endings of books he was reading – Daily Record
  11. Josh Hastings had a record of misconduct as a Little Rock police officer. Then he shot Bobby Moore. – The Washington Post
    This lengthy article by the amazing Radley Balko makes the point that police abuse and even murder isn’t about a few bad apples in the barrel; it’s about the barrel itself being bad.
  12. Charging ‘Dealers’ with Homicide: Explained – The Appeal
    “Caleb Smith ordered online what he thought was Adderall to help him study. His girlfriend asked to try it. She died from an overdose. It turned out the substance was fentanyl. Prosecutors charged Caleb with “drug-induced homicide.” Then he killed himself.”
  13. Opinion: It’s past time to repeal Oregon’s Jim Crow era jury law
    “But that deliberative process breaks down when a majority of jurors can merely ignore the dissenting views of their fellow jurors.” An issue I’ve never given any thought to before.
  14. Retweets Are Trash – The Atlantic – Medium
    “I made a small tweak to my Twitter account that has changed my experience of the platform. It’s calmer. It’s slower. It’s less repetitive, and a little less filled with outrage.” And, related: How to turn off retweets.
  15. Zinnia Jones on Dating and Transphobia | Noah Berlatsky on Patreon
  16. Millennials Have Caused U.S. Divorce Rate to Plummet: New Study |
    Basically, people that in the past would have been likely to marry young and eventually divorce, are now not getting married in the first place, which is predicted to mean a much lower divorce rate.
  17. FBI Data Shows Plenty Of Vandalism, Little Violence Against U.S. Jews
    – The Forward
  18. Lucy Lawless, In A Greenpeace Action, Belts Out Xena War Cries While Illegally Boarding Oil Ship –
    Really, do you need anything more than that headline?
  19. After a mass shooting: A survivor’s life | The Washington Post
    This is a long read, and a deeply unhappy read, but I still recommend it. It’s a portrait of a young woman, and of her mother, whose lives were drastically harmed by a mass shooter.
  20. Massachusetts has an answer to America’s gun problem – Vox
    The right mix of gun laws – particularly but not only the permit-to-purchase system – helps Massachusetts have the lowest rate of gun deaths in the US.
  21. Unprotected
    “An acclaimed American charity said it was saving some of the world’s most vulnerable girls from sexual exploitation. But from the very beginning, girls were being raped.”
    A long read, sad and infuriating, about what happened when an American woman started a school for girls in Liberia. A reminder that there’s good reason for people to be suspicious of the white savior mode of charity. (Via).

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