asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
Esmeralda Santiago is a writer I hadn't heard of before a couple of weeks ago, when J, one of the teachers at the educational program I volunteer with in Holyoke, said she was coming to give a talk at Holyoke Community College. "I was hoping you could talk her up in your creative writing session and get some of the students to come."

He handed me the sheet on her, and wow:

Esmeralda Santiago grew up in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico in a one-room shack with a dirt floor and tin roof. Her family moved to New York when she was thirteen years old. The eldest of eleven, Esmeralda learned English from children’s books in a Brooklyn library. A teacher encouraged her to audition for Performing Arts High School, where she majored in drama and dance. After eight years of part-time study at community colleges, Esmeralda transferred to Harvard University with a full scholarship and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1976. Shortly after graduation, she and her husband Frank Cantor founded CANTOMEDIA, a film and media production company that has won numerous awards for excellence in educational and documentary filmmaking. With the publication of her first memoir When I was Puerto Rican, the Washington Post hailed Esmeralda as “a welcome new voice, full of passion and authority.” Her first novel, America's Dream, has been published in six languages and made into a movie by executive producer Edward James Olmos. Her second memoir, Almost a Woman, received an Alex Award from the American Library Association, and was made into a Peabody-award winning movie for PBS Masterpiece Theatre’s “American Collection.”


It gets long )

The people from my class who went--three women (one in her late 20s, one in her 40s, and one in her 60s) and one man (in his 30s), all Puerto Rican--loved the talk, and I did too. And I felt a swirl of gratitude and pride, pride because if I hadn't persuaded them to come, they wouldn't have gotten to, and gratitude, because if it wasn't for their coming, I wouldn't have probably gone.

It was a Good Experience.


Esmeralda Santiago
(photo source: centerforfiction.org)
asakiyume: (snow bunting)
In the creative writing workshop I'm doing, I did a version of "what is taller, higher, softer, smaller?" Some of the answers are beautiful. You can read all of them here, but here are a few highlights:

As quiet as a fish, moths, smoke (Victor D)
I'm not brave enough killing spider (Lilliana)
I am empty like a cup of juice when I drink it (Abraham)


(photo of smoke by Nur Uretmen: Source)

And I promised to link to some of the stories they'd written, too. This one is written by Victor M, who's not as old as the man pictured, but getting up in years--I feel like he had real empathy for the man in the photo: "Remembering his youth."

Laly said she picked this photo because the woman reminded her of her grandmother: "Waiting on her food."

(Laly wrote a moving piece on being transgender and choosing her own name, here.)

Yamayra liked that the couple in the photo she chose were dancing in the kitchen.

Enjoy!


asakiyume: (Hades)
The reason I feel anxious when I dump off my papers in the paper recycling dumpster is because people like me will see interesting items and pull them out--as I did, yesterday. I was attracted by the fancy handwriting. The book in which it had been inscribed was falling apart, but I grabbed the first few pages to situate the dedication.

Erle Stanley Garnder to Frances G. Lee

It might have been hard to decipher the name of the person who was making the inscription if it didn't happen to be ... the author of the novel!

copyright page

Although he was writing under one of his many pseudonyms:

title page

I thought the name "Erle Stanley Gardner" sounded somehow familiar--and a Google search told me that yes, indeed: he was the creator of Perry Mason and many other mysteries. Regarding his writing, the Thrilling Detective website says, "Although critics sneered and many felt that Erle Stanley Gardner was not a very good writer ... Gardner was one of the best selling writers of all times, and certainly one of the best-selling mystery authors ever."

Erle Stanley Gardner


source

Armed with this knowledge, and with some effort (and invaluable aid from Wakanomori), I take the dedication to read,

To my friend and
instructor
Capt. Frances G. Lee -- Trooper Gardner reporting.
With all my love
Erle
Stanley Gardner
June 1958

So who was Captain Frances--female spelling--G. Lee?

Well! She turns out to be Frances Glessner Lee, whom Wikipedia tells us is the "mother of forensic science"!

She had to wait until she was 52 to embark on the career for which she became famous, but at that point she inherited a fabulous fortune that enabled her to pursue her studies and endow departments of legal medicine, police science, and a library.

Further, Wikipedia tells us that "for her work, Lee was made an honorary captain in the New Hampshire State Police in 1943, making her to first woman to join International Association of Chief of Police."

a picture of her

source

And, Erle Stanley Gardner dedicated several novels to her.

... and somehow one that he'd sent to her himself, with an inscription, ends its life in a recycling dumpster in my town. I wonder who owned the book?

an extra, on prisons )

In any case: not your everyday find!


asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
Do you know about plarn, yarn made from plastic bags? You can knit or crochet it and make beautiful, durable items--like this bag that [livejournal.com profile] darkpaisley made for me, years ago, from Stop & Shop bags.



Discarded plastic bags are more than just an ugly nuisance in the West African nation of the Gambia. There, plastic shopping bags kill livestock that eat them and provide a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitos. A woman named Isatou Ceesay found an ingenious solution. She learned how to make plarn, and, with her friends, started crocheting small change purses from the discarded plastic bags, which she and her friends sold. The trash problem--and attendant health risks--disappeared, and Isatou and her friends had a new source of income. The project was so successful that Isatou started teaching women in other villages, and in 2012 she won the International Alliance for Women's World of Difference award.

Isatou Ceesay Photos by Smelter Mountain on Flickr (used with permission)




Miranda Paul, a writer who has lived and taught in the Gambia, wrote about Isatou in One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia (illustrated by the fabulous Elizabeth Zunon).

An LJ friend put me in touch with Miranda, and I asked her some questions about One Plastic Bag, writing, and her time in the Gambia. Her answers are thought-provoking and inspiring.

You lived and taught in the Gambia a few times over the course of several years. How has your time there changed the way you live in the United States?

All of our experiences shape the way we live in some way, especially significant ones such as my time(s) in the Gambia. Of course, I'm even more conscious about using resources and generating trash now, but that's not the only way my travels have changed me. I've learned the importance of having many relationships and connections, which is hard to admit for those of us who are introverted or like being alone. In Gambia, your network of people is often your greatest asset, your biggest resource. I make it a point not to "hole up" here in the U.S. and to try to keep in touch with people (offline).

As a follow-up, how has writing One Plastic Bag changed your outlook (on recycling, women’s empowerment, entrepreneurship—anything!)

Watching the success of Isatou's project in Njau has led me to firmly believe that the most productive development, empowerment, etc. happens because the leaders are insiders. I've seen many foreigners try to come in and start charities or projects, and they tend to fail or fizzle in time. But Peggy Sedlak, the Peace Corps Volunteer in the book, who helped Isatou and the women get their co-op running, deserves kudos for setting it up in a way in which the women took ownership and leadership of the project. Listening and being flexible was important to all of them, and the Women Initiative Gambia program has become one of the most successful (and longest-lasting) Peace Corps inspired projects in the Gambia.

Read more: interacting with schoolchildren, being involved with We Need Diverse Books )

Thank you, Miranda, for spending some time here with me! And thanks for all that you do with children and building community--it's wonderful.



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