Books By Women: No One Belongs Here More than You

I want this book title tattooed on my arm.

No One Belongs Here More Than You

indexI want to remember Miranda July’s collection of short stories for the rest of my life because this was the book I needed to read. Every story is a testament to loneliness and the struggle toward self love. I found No One Belongs Here More Than You at a Barnes and Noble when I convinced myself, even after reading the first story, that I was not going to buy this book. I was not going to buy this book. I was moving to Chicago in two weeks. Why did I need one more book?

I should have bought the book, but it was an incredible accident that I found a copy at the local library and it was the last book I read while I was still in Georgia.

Nearly all the stories were narrated in the first person and most of them were narrated by female characters. These people are flawed, as deeply flawed in numerous and terrifying understandable ways. The woman who falls asleep while her neighbor has a seizure. The teenage lesbian runaway who works at a Peep Show. The woman asleep with her boyfriend who hears someone coming up the stairs.

Miranda July describes our world with such honesty that the weird and the off kilter I look for in speculative fiction was laid bare in the human mind and the normal progressions of our day to day lives.

This was the best book I have read all summer and I will keep you updated on if I get that tattoo. Because more than the literary merit of Miranda July’s work, the title speaks to an essential feminist concept: you belong in this space (and every space); you have value; your words have meaning. 

I can’t wait to see more from Miranda July who is talented not only as a fiction writer, but also as an artist, screenwriter and film maker. To get a sense of who she is as a person, check out the website for the book here.

Next on my list: We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson. Happy reading!


Five-Finger Contract

imagesI just started a new job working with high school students in Chicago through The Schuler Scholar Program. The students had to go to an adventure camp as part of the program and their leadership director taught us all an incredibly life philosophy that can be simply remembered as the Five-Finger Contract.

  1. Thumb: Thumbs up. Always keep a positive attitude.
  2. Pointer finger: Never use blame. When you blame someone and point fingers, three of your fingers point back towards you.
  3. Middle finger: Watch your language. I do not mean that those who swear are unintelligent and immature (I’ve thankfully outgrown that philosophy since high school). Watch your language does not necessarily mean don’t swear. Instead, I see it as keeping your language positive like your attitude and supporting others with your words. Use your language to build everyone up.
  4. Ring finger: Commitment. Commit yourself to doing good and always being your personal best.
  5. Pinky: Pinky promise. Promise to uphold the five finger contract to the best of your ability.

We’re not perfect. No one can be expected to be positive every moment of every day or always be on their best behavior. But this lesson for the students struck me as something I want to incorporate into my own life as I find ways to be a more positive and loving person no matter the situation. And bettering the world through feminism and activism needs a positive base.

I am…

Being a feminist is about more than wanting equality and is more than a self-proclaimed title. In order to love your sex and believe in a world where sexism does not exist, you must first love yourself.

This writing exercise was described to me as an ‘I Am Poem’, but that sounds rather intimidating. You do not need to be a writer in order to use words to express who you and why you love yourself. For anyone who is not a writer this is not about being perfect with words, and poetic need not apply to what you say. Talk onto the page if it makes you more comfortable.

When I did this with a group we were given ten minutes and in those ten minutes I took the time to free-write. Free writing means the uncensored flow of ideas from your mind to the page. Today, take ten minutes and tell yourself who you are without judging and without censorship. It only starts with two words and ten minutes to start, but what you learn may last a lifetime.

Love yourself, love your sex and be proud to be a feminist.

I am

a paradox, an illusion, a hope, stable, loving, fictional, real, a superhero, a fighter, a feminist, wonderful, dreaming and praying and wondering why I believe and what I believe in, a Jew, a woman, abstract and that’s okay, the pages upon which I write, the pen, the ink, my mind, my consciousness. I am thoughtful and engaged, or disengaged and that’s okay too. I am loved, loving and again to love and come back to love as a first principle though love isn’t grounded in science and fact and neither am I, a rambler, a truth seeker, passionate, more than can be seen or experienced, more than my words, my body, my mind I am more, forever and always more and more than I can comprehend. I am a free writer, a word user and word maker-uper, a child, an adult, blessed.

I am blessed.

I am blessed.

With such wondrous people in my life, I am blessed.