As part of my New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve vowed to read the hundreds of books I already own. Last night, I started and finished Kicking the Habit: A Lesbian Nun Story by Jeanne Córdova, which I received last year courtesy of a giveaway from Danika Ellis, a book blogger who runs The Lesbrary. Córdova’s 1990 memoir is compulsively readable—I couldn’t put it down. She writes about her decision to join the convent fresh out of high school, her growing unease regarding church politics, her deep friendships with her fellow postulants and secular students alike, and, eventually, her decision to leave the novitiate. Córdova is well-known for her 2011 memoir, When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love and Revolution, which describes her political work and LGBTQ community organizing in the 1970s. She was a force for good in the West Coast queer community. She edited a lesbian magazine, created an LGBTQ business directory, and even organized the Gay and Lesbian caucus to the Democratic Party. Sadly, Córdova died a little more than a year ago. I wish I could have met her.
In the two years since I compiled the first installation of “The Lives of Nuns,” Autostraddle wrote about queer nuns in history, Racked shadowed (fake) nuns growing marijuana, and The Huffington Post reported on a nun’s murder and the students who want the truth. Those stories and more are included below. Seclude yourself and read. Read more…
In 2016, I published my New Year’s resolutions on Longreads. As 2017 dawns, I thought I’d check in with my old self, dust off 2016’s goals and set some new intentions.
1. Alas, I never did make it to Iceland, but I did a lot of domestic travel in 2016. In Washington State, I touched the Pacific Ocean for the first time and slept on a sailboat. In Asheville, I got a new tattoo and swooned inside Firestorm Books & Cafe. I saw friends and family marry in Richmond and Chautauqua. I saw Deaf West perform Spring Awakening and the one-weekend revival of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater in NYC. I even visited Foamhenge! (That’s me in the photo above.) I’m returning to Asheville in 2017; beyond that, I have no concrete travel plans. Feel free to sponsor me on a trip to the ends of the Earth and back! I’ll write about it! For now, I’m seeing the world via the following essays from 2016:
This is a picture of me and my great friend Shannon on our graduation day in 2012. She is my first and last; that is, we were roommates our freshman year and our senior year. There are many things I don’t miss about my four years in higher ed, but living amongst my closest friends isn’t one of them. If I could go back to any moment in my life, I think I would choose walking into the student union and seeing a table of my friends, laughing and working.
College was brutal. I almost didn’t finish. My friends gave meaning to my pain. If that sounds dramatic, that’s because it was. College is nothing if not dramatic, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. For four years, my universe was a bucolic, neoclassical (and neoconservative) postage stamp in a part of the country I didn’t know existed until I moved there. Commencement was a blur, with a dull speaker and many, many photos. I wanted to sleep for a month and forget about the angst of my final semester. Read more…
“You build a prison, and then you’ve got to find someone to put in them,” said Texas state Sen. John Whitmire, who has seen five of the 13 Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons built in his state. “So they widen the net and find additional undocumented folks to fill them up.”
Most of the roughly 23,000 immigrants held each night in CAR prisons have committed immigration infractions — crimes that a decade ago would have resulted in little more than a bus trip back home. And now, some of the very same officials who oversaw agencies that created and fueled the system have gone on to work for the private prison companies that benefited most.
The low-security facilities are often squalid, rife with abuse, and use solitary confinement excessively, according to advocates.
Michael Hobbes has an eye-opening story in Highline, The Huffington Post’s features and investigations vertical, about why it’s impossible to eliminate sweatshops through boycotting and shopping ethically alone. Here’s how Wal-Mart found itself producing clothes at an unsafe garment factory despite banning its suppliers from using it:
After the Tazreen fire, NGO campaigns focused on how Wal-Mart was responsible for 60 percent of the clothing being produced there. But Wal-Mart never actually placed an order with Tazreen. In fact, over a year before the fire, Wal-Mart inspected the factory and discovered that it was unsafe. By the time of the fire, it had banned its suppliers from using it.
So here’s how its products ended up at Tazreen anyway: Wal-Mart hired a megasupplier called Success Apparel to fill an order for shorts. Success hired another company, Simco, to carry out the work. Simco—without telling Success, much less Wal-Mart—sub-contracted 7 percent of the order to Tazreen’s parent company, the Tuba Group, which then assigned it to Tazreen. Two other sub- (or sub-sub-sub-) contractors also placed Wal-Mart orders at Tazreen, also without telling the company.
It was the same with many of the other brands whose labels were found in Tazreen: They either didn’t know their clothes were being produced there or had explicitly banned the factory as a supplier. Those companies now say that, because the orders violated their policies, they’re not obligated to compensate victims.
From reporter Jason Cherkis and the Huffington Post’s new Highline magazine comes a devastating story about ’70s teen rock band the Runaways. Bassist Jackie Fuchs reveals that early in the band’s history, she was drugged and raped by their producer Kim Fowley in front of several bandmates, including Joan Jett. She stayed silent for decades. (Jett is not commenting.)
Jackie showed up at the next band practice some days later, not ready to stop being a Runaway. Although she was nervous about how her bandmates would treat her, she at least expected them to acknowledge that something bad had happened. But the girls hardly registered her presence. They just plugged in and started running through their songs. That was the day, Jackie says, “the elephant joined the band.”
Jackie took her bandmates’ silence to mean that she should keep quiet, too. “I didn’t know if anybody would have backed me,” she says. “I knew I would be treated horribly by the police—that I was going to be the one that ended up on trial more than Kim. I carried this sense of shame and of thinking it was somehow my fault for decades.”