me --> writing elsewhere: looking back / looking forward edition

On the shore (Falmouth, Mass.)
Even though I took much of August and September off from regularly-scheduled blogging, I haven't done one of these posts since early summer so there's quite a bit accumulated on the interwebs to direct your attention to.

at the corner of your eye I put up the following reviews:
guest posts at In Our Words include:
at The Pursuit of Harpyness I contributed:
and a few Tumblr-length thoughts over at the feminist librarian reads:
Just today, I put up a farewell post at Harpyness; after nearly two years of blogging at what Hanna refers to as "the orange blog" I've decided it's time to move on. In part, the break I took from blogging in the run-up to our marriage helped me see how over-extended I've become on the interwebs. I'd like to re-dedicate myself to this space (the feminist librarian) in the months to come, as well as focusing more systematically on longer-term writing projects. 

In the immediate future, I'll be sharing more stuff about our wedding and book reviews as I am able; my new responsibilities at work are making for a hectic season and I find that I get home in the evenings with less writing energy than usual. I don't expect this to last, but please bear with me while it does -- I love meeting you in this space, and promise I will be here in the years to come. 

Incidentally, this is my 1000th post at annajcook.blogspot.com (which began life in 2007 as "The Future Feminist Librarian-Activist" in the spring before I embarked to graduate school in Boston. 


before witnesses [wedding day, installment one]

As followers of this blog are aware, on Friday, September 14, Hanna and I became lawfully wedded wives. It was a glorious late-summer morning and in the weeks to come I'll be posting photos from the wedding itself and our honeymoon on Cape Cod (equally felicitous weather-wise).

But before all of that, I wanted to share with you the words which our three friends who attended shared with us. We asked each of them, in advance, to bring a short passage of prose or a poem which they would be willing to share by way of opening and closing the ceremony. We did not know in advance what they had chosen, but instead let their words inflect the day unanticipated.

Here, in the order which they read them, are the words they shared.

This Marriage, Ode 2667

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade,
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
your every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name
an open as welcome,
as the moon in the clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe how spirit mingles
in this marriage.


Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight writing down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps ... perhaps ... love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.

~L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do 
and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not 
at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the 
sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything. 

Play fair. 

Don't hit people. 

Put things back where you found them. 

Clean up your own mess. 

Don't take things that aren't yours. 

Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. 

Wash your hands before you eat. 


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. 

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play 
and work every day some. 

Take a nap every afternoon. 

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, 
hold hands, and stick together. 

~Robert Fulghum, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

*Update: due to privacy concerns voiced by attendees, I've removed the identifiable images from this post; I apologize to those whose personal online image policies I unthinkingly violated.


from this day forward

announcement designed by Diana Wakimoto; photography by Laura Wulf; knotwork by Mark Cook


people keep asking me if I'm nervous

When I got to work this morning and opened up my Outlook application, this was the reminder that popped up:

In almost exactly 24 hours from now, Hanna and I will be making our way to Tatte to prepare our outdoor table space for the celebration with our altar cloth and symbolic items, and our witness document prepared (with the help of kittens!) for signatures.

Our exchange of vows is scheduled to happen at approximately 9am (EST), before our Justice of the Peace and friends Ashley, Rebecca, and Shoshana.

I've promised a number of you photographs soon thereafter, so watch this space tomorrow afternoon for a few snapshots; more in the weeks to come. And many of you are on our mailing list for wedding announcements (designed by our friend Diana with artistic elements from Dad Cook and friend Laura Wulf).

Thanks to everyone who has extended their well-wishes; it does truly make the day more meaningful to know that friends near and far are thinking of us.


booknotes: the end of men

Back in July, I unexpectedly scored an advance review copy of Hanna Rosin's The End of Men; and the Rise of Women (Riverhead Books, 2012) through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. It arrived last week and I had every intention of saving it for vacation ... but instead read it over the course of two afternoons. In part because it's a pretty breezy read once you've got the gist -- and mostly because I was so irritated by it, I found it hard to put down.*

In the event you've been in a media blackout since July 2010, Rosin originally wrote an article for The Atlantic under the same sensationalist title (a title which she apologizes for as the book dedication; perhaps that's when you should rethink your marketing strategy?). Said article was one of a rash of journalism-lite pieces proclaiming the 2008 recession a "he-cession" and suggesting that as male unemployment rose it was women who stood to gain in both economic opportunity and political and social power. "The End of Men" painted a bleak picture of a future "matriarchy" in which high-powered, controlling women run the world while their college dropout loser husbands hang out with soiled toddlers ignoring the responsibilities of grown-up life. The End of Men is essentially a book-length elaboration on this apocalyptic vision of an upturned gender binary that -- rather than creating space for more egalitarian, gender-independent relationships -- merely reverses the stark hierarchy of the most aggressive patriarchal society.

More articulate and knowledgeable bloggers than I have refuted Rosin's sketchy use of data and anecdote to paint this hysterical vision of what 21st-century hetero relationships may look like, and how the changing global economy might contribute to their reshaping. I'm not going to mimic more comprehensive efforts elsewhere. What I want to talk about instead is how crippling Rosin's framework of oppositional, binary gender is to her observation and analysis, how profoundly it shapes her interpretation of what she sees in the world. Because this, more than anything, got under my skin and made me feel kinda sleazy for even paying The End of Men the time of day.

But I am giving it the time of day because -- as Jill points out in her meditation on Naomi Wolf's latest venture into the world of publishing -- however frustrating and discrediting I find Rosin's framework, it continues to be a compelling one for many people across the political spectrum. Rosin continues to be a respected left-of-center talking head on issues of children and education, on feminism, on parenting, on sexuality, on gender. And yet she is writing from a perspective drenched in the gender binary, seeing a world in which men stand in one corner, women in the other, locked in a zero-sum competition for power, prestige, and material resources.

And it's important to ask how truthful this interpretation of the world is, how useful it might be in helping us move forward, and what Rosin's framework causes her to overlook and leave out (in the event this post is tl;dr for some of you, my answers to these three questions are: not very, not hardly, and some pretty crucial things about humanity -- for example, uh, that same-sex couples exist and don't fit into her tidy framework of hetero couples in perpetual struggle for dominance).

Rosin waffles in the text over whether gender difference is borne of nature, nurture, or a combination of both -- but in the end this doesn't much matter to her thesis. Whether innate or learned, the women and men who populate Rosin's world are the tired stereotypes of gender complementarity -- with, if we're lucky, a feminist twist. Women are barrelling ahead learning how to combine "feminine" and "masculine" traits and take over the world, while men (unwilling or unable to adapt, it's unclear throughout the text which theory Rosin favors) are left unmoored and impoverished. In Rosinland (seriously: is she living in the same country I am?), the men are universally intellectually closed, emotionally stunted beings who shuffle through life under the thumb of high-powered wives and girlfriends who organize and circumscribe their lives -- and then ditch the dudes when their economic success leads them to greener sexual pastures. Or, if they had the poor judgment to get married before economic disparity set in, the couple falls into a routine of wifely overfunctioning and/or spousal abuse by a resentful husband.**

Here's the thing. Because Rosin is determined to make this a story about gender -- and specifically, how men are losing at life while (because?) women are winning -- she utterly fails to approach her research with awareness of how her beliefs about gender color her interpretation. Not only does she fail to deliver an account "unincumbered by assumption or ideology" (as the flap copy would have us believe), she doesn't even fess up to the assumptions and/or ideologies that shape her narrative. We all bring bias and belief to our project of making meaning, and thus it is irresponsible for anyone to approach such a nexus of cultural-laden ideas (gender, power, marriage, work) and not acknowledge the particular lens through which they approach their research.

Gender is, as many a feminist pointed out, a valid category for analysis. The gender we're assigned at birth, and how the world around us responds to that gender, is absolutely part of what shapes our lives. The fact that Rosin can write a whole book using the lens of gender is a victory for feminist theorists, activists, and scholars the world over. My frustration with Rosin's argument isn't that she chooses to focus on gender -- it's that she seems to understand gender to be the category of analysis. Like feminists who act as if the sisterhood is the ur-category trumping race, class, sexual orientation, nationality, time, space, and possibly black holes, Rosin hop-skip-jumps from anecdote to anecdote attributing every marital friction, educational or economic woe, asshole behavior or informant viewpoint back to ... gender.

The strange beings who populate The End of Men appear to have no inner life or motivation beyond fulfilling (or overcoming) the fact of their gender. Religious beliefs or social justice values? A sense of how, as an individual, the person wants to shape a meaningful life? What sort of parent they want to be, where their creative passion lies, none of this matters. The only value any being in Rosinland seems to possess is monetary, and whether their monetary fortunes go up or down seems to be a question of how skillfully they perform gender. The women who populate Rosinland are a breed of Amazonian high-achievers whose interest in people with penes seems wholly dependent on their material utility (and possibly their genetic matter and/or ability to provide fucks on a somewhat regular basis). She actually invokes Charlotte Perkins Gilman's embarrassingly racist Herland as a literary example of the world she believes we're charging toward.

And cites it as a victory for the feminist agenda. Once again, I failed to get that memo.

Because Rosin thinks women only want men for their economic assets*** she is obviously puzzled by the couples she encounters where women are (for example) pursuing advanced degrees while their partners are content with a quieter life. In Rosinland, deliberately picking a low-key job in order to have time to go fishing with your buddies, play video games, or (gasp!) be a stay-at-home dad are sneer-worthy life choices.

Excuse me for living, but men are hardly the only ones to value friendships and leisure time, fandoms and family over a high-paying career that might bring in over $100k per year but demand eighty hours per week in return. I kept waiting for The End of Men to take me on a tour of hetero relationships that have found equitable footing (I know a number of them!), where the partners actually, you know, care about one another as people rather than monitoring their significant other for how well they're fulfilling a prescribed social role. Yet in Rosinland these relationships do not exist.

I'd argue that, in part, they don't exist because Rosin completely failed to talk about queer people. At all. Not a single lesbian, gay man, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, poly, or kinky individual appeared in the pages of her book. In Rosinland, the only option is heterosexuality -- it has to be or her theory of gender relations would fall apart.

Yet even if she'd been up-front about focusing on heterosexual relationships and how economic factors shape the family decisions and interpersonal dynamics of straight people, I could have pointed her to at least half a dozen straight couples I know where the interpersonal dynamics are hardly over-determined by the size of each individual's paycheck. Newsflash: there are other reasons people enter and remain in relationships.

Hands-down the creepiest aspect of The End of Men was the way in which Rosin ha so completely accepted the neoliberal assumption that the worth of a human being begins and ends with their worth as worker.

Ultimately, The End of Men is a book that uses a lot of paper and ink to say very little that is original or useful. It regurgitates tired stereotypes about (straight) women and men, invites us to fear women's rising professional success and greater social autonomy, and is confusingly vague about how we have landed in this dreadful gendered mess. Rosin insists that men aren't incapable of putting on their grown-up pants and succeeding in this new "feminized" economic landscape -- except that her references to evolutionary psychology and discredited "brain difference" studies undercut this assertion. And while she pays lip service to gender policing and social expectations that penalize men and women for gender non-conforming behavior, she is worryingly blithe about structural constraints on individual autonomy. For example, in a chapter on female executives, she argues that these women have succeeded because they "will themselves to ignore [sexism] so they can get their work done" (197).

In Rosinland, the only real obstacle to women's success is their own self-doubt.

I would argue that The End of Men is actually a book that revolves around Rosin's fear of women's equality -- or at least her belief that as women make social and economic gains it is their responsibility to ease the terrible shock their hard-won equality is causing the men. The women of Rosinland are judged harshly -- the text repeatedly uses words like "overbearing," "domineering," "matriarchy" -- for taking on assertive, leadership roles in both the workplace and in their personal lives. Yet we are also held responsible for cajoling, bullying, manipulating, requiring, or otherwise hauling reluctant men into the new "matriarchal" world order. In a penultimate chapter on the rising economic power of Korean women^, for example, Rosin relates an anecdote about a woman who spent two decades pushing her husband to help her with household chores and now that he's finally "taken the hint" she's set to work on her son.

While I obviously have no problem with women expecting equality in the domestic sphere -- regardless of the sex of their partner! -- what I think is fascinating-yet-troubling about the way Rosin shapes her anecdotes is that it is always the woman who lays down the law for her man to follow. While simultaneously bending over backwards to make adaptation seem palatable to men who (because of their caveman brains?) are lost in a woman's world, disconsolate and suffering. At times, Rosin even seems to be suggesting that in order to encourage men to become more gender-independent (less wedded to outmoded notions of masculinity) we have to create special male-specific pathways for them to get there -- i.e. gender-segregated educational opportunities. Surely if the future we want is one in which both women and men can thrive as people, the very last thing we would want is to suggest by the very shape of our educational system that women and men were fundamentally different beings?

In my estimation, The End of Men ends up using the supposed explanatory power of gender to account for seismic changes in the global economy that need to be grappled with in a much less reductive way. It is not enough to argue that the prevalence of women in the workplace equals the success of women (much less the success of feminism) if the reason women outnumber men in our economy is that they tend to hold jobs in the service and retail industries -- jobs that rarely pay a living way, are thin on benefits, and usually exact harsh penalties for workplace organizing. It's not the triumph of feminism that labor women, as a class, used to perform for free (childcare, eldercare, housework) is now outsourced to others who, in turn, must outsource their own care-giving responsibilities.

The story Rosin ought to be telling is a story about the erosion of workers rights, about the increasing identification of citizen and self with the wage-work we perform, about the poisonous effect this has on our interpersonal relations, about the way neoliberal capitalism fails to account for the care we provide to one another that can't be reduced to work-for-hire. Yet her beliefs about gender cause her to look no deeper than a tired old tale of male vs. female.

I can only hope that her work will inspire others to do better.

*Andi Zeisler recently commented that Katie Roiphe's anti-fans can't stop obsessively reading everything she publishes; I have had a similar relationship with Rosin since reading God's Harvard (2007).

**Except in Rosinland women are the greater physical threat -- based on a handful of sensationalist accounts of female aggression a la Mean Girls meets Monster. This is such a troubling misuse of anecdata I can't even.

***She totally buys into the sexual economy theory of hetero relationships, even citing Mark Regnerus' Premarital Sex in America to support her argument.

^Her handling of race gives me the no feeling on a number of levels, but her chapter on the "gold misses" of Korea is especially troubling in the way it uncritically recapitulates stereotypes about Asian women and the cultures of Asia. Also note that African-Americans appear most explicitly in the chapter on the increase in female violence and in references to "matriarchal" society.

Cross-posted at The Pursuit of Harpyness.


fighting anecdata with anecdata

So I'm in the middle of reading a review copy of Hanna Rosin's The End of Men and the Rise of Women, which ... with a title like that, you really can't expect much, right? And your suspicions would be confirmed. But one of the truly annoying things she's doing is profiling hetero relationships in which everyone is miserable.

And portraying all men as dunderheaded two-year-olds.


You'd think, reading books like this (or, ahem, The Secret Lives of Wives) that not a single happy experience was being had in the world of hetero relations since, oh, I don't know, V-J Day. Or possibly since women got the vote. Or maybe around the time Mary Wollstonecraft penned Vindication.

So, more or less in self-defense -- or, more to the point, in defense of the many awesome non-abusive, humanly-flawed-yet-engaged-with-life men I know and love -- I've compiled a list of men in our cohort (the "end of men" cohort, in which dudes are apparently, "obsolete") by way of giving them all a massive shout-out for general awesomeness and, well, disproving Rosin's hysterical claims that the world is rapidly devolving into a dystopic "matriarchy" (I swear, if she makes this claim one more time in the pages of The End I may emit a tiny shriek of despair).

Aiden is a passionate social justice activist working at the Durham County Library.

Brian, my brother, a middle school art teacher, free-lance illustrator, and graduate student, married to my sister-in-law Renee, a landscape painter.

Brian, my boss's boyfriend, who's the IT guy for a school, is training to be a voice actor, and moonlights as a musician.

Collin, my friend Diana's boyfriend and all-around awesome person who works in digital archives management (and in his spare time does things like cook gourmet meals, build letterpresses, and send us cute pictures of bunnies).

Dan, a former Library Assistant at the MHS was just promoted to Assistant Reference Librarian; he enjoys cycling and soccer in his free time.

Drew has spent the last ten years working in computer programming and web design.

Eric, my friend Molly's husband, just finished his PhD while parenting full-time and is looking for professional work (also while parenting an infant and six-year-old) alongside his wife.

Erik, Hanna's best friend from High School, became a father earlier this year; he bartends while his wife works as an accountant for the state.

Henry works in IT and in his spare time enjoys hiking and traveling with his librarian wife.

Jeremy, my former colleague at the MHS, moved on to a position at LibraryThing and handles user communications and outreach, as well as spear-heading their project cataloging famous peoples' historical libraries.

After completing his library science degree, Jim is working as a documentary editor and considering renewing his dedication of music.

My dear friend Joseph is a plant breeder who's just sent his first book to press and completed the first round of paperwork to begin nation-wide trials for an ornamental corn hybrid. He's also thinking about fostering rescue kittens when he finishes the process of buying a house.

Josh, Hanna's acupuncturist, also teaches yoga and meditation while his fiancee works in a hospital.

Patrick, husband of Bethany, is completing a PhD in Philosophy and Mathematics, after extensive graduate work in both the US and UK.

Nate currently works at CostCo while pursuing documentary film-making; his wife teaches English and is completing her first YA novel.

I'm sure I've left someone out, so ... feel free to fill in the gaps in comments! Please. And I promise a more coherent review of Rosin's work once I've actually had the patience to finish it.


in which I write letters: dear alma mater ... again

Diane De Young
Associate Director of the Hope Fund
Hope College
PO Box 9000
Holland, MI 49424-9000
4 September 2012 

Dear Ms. De Young,

Thank you for your recent letter alerting me to the upcoming Hope College Phonathon. I am writing to explain why I will not be contributing to the campaign; you are welcome to share my reasons with whomever might benefit from this information. 

As I'm sure your records indicate, I attended Hope College from 1998-2005, graduating with a BA in Women's Studies and History (double major). During my seven years at Hope, I formed lasting relationships with my faculty mentors and received what I would consider a superior college education. While at Hope, I benefited from merit and need-based scholarships, as well as the tuition benefit awarded to children of Hope College employees (my father is Mark Cook, director of the Hope-Geneva Bookstore). The quality of my Hope College experience was part of what enabled me to make the most of my graduate education at Simmons College, where I completed an MA in History and an MS in Library Science. Today, I serve as the Reference Librarian at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and this past March I had the rewarding experience of returning to Hope College as a guest speaker at the Women's Studies Celebration. I was recently asked to provide a letter of support for Dr. Jeanne Petit as she is considered for promotion to the rank of Full Professor, a request it was my pleasure to fulfill.

However, as a woman who will shortly be marrying my girlfriend of the past three years here in Massachusetts, I am a Hope College alumni who feels unwelcome and unloved by the institution as a whole. In April 2010, as the Board of Trustees was revisiting their support of the current Institutional Statement on Homosexuality, I wrote to then-Chairperson Joel Bowens and explained that until Hope College alters its position on human sexuality to be affirming of all a full range of human orientations, identities, and desires, I will not support the college financially. I cannot in good conscience send money to an institution that does not recognize the legitimacy of my primary relationship. I will speak up whenever given the opportunity -- such as during fundraising campaigns -- against the actions and words of the Board, and of Hope as an institution, that continue to create a hostile environment for faculty, staff, students, and alumni who are not straight or do not believe that non-straight sexuality is immoral.

I will continue to speak highly of the faculty who mentored me, and provide what support I can to individuals and programs that are welcoming and affirming to all (such as the Women's Studies program). Yet I will not be participating in the Phonathon, in the Hope Fund, or any other fundraising campaigns until Hope College as an institution recognizes and affirms the lives of those of us who find joy and meaning in same-sex relationships.

I look forward to watching Hope's progress toward a more inclusive future, and hope that someday I will be able to respond to your requests without reservation.



Anna J. Cook ('05)
# Xxxxxxx Xx. Apt #
Xxxxxxx, MA


in which I write letters: the problem with throwing religious home-educators under the bus

Dear Claire,

I'm writing to you as a long-time reader of The Tenured Radical, as a fellow blogger, fellow leftist, and individual who spent the first seventeen years of my life learning outside of school -- as did my fiancee, until she entered public high school. I wanted to respond to your post regarding home education and the religious right.

I realize that in our contemporary landscape "homeschooling" in the public eye has become virtually synonymous with conservative Christian organizations like the Home School Legal Defense Fund (which actually financed a lot of the court battles that made home education legal for families of all political persuasions), and families who take their children out of public schools for fundamentalist religious reasons. However, I find your characterization of home education "as a grassroots movement" being anti-intellectual and anti-citizenship troubling.

Yes, you are talking about a specific subset of home-educating families and philosophies, but throughout your piece you obscure the wide variety of motivations to home education and styles of learning and teaching by using "home schoolers" as a substitute for "fundamentalist-evangelical Christian conservative homeschoolers." As a woman who grew up as part of the "grassroots" home education movement in Michigan during the 1980s and 90s, this erases my experience -- and the experience of many of my contemporaries -- whose home-based education expanded horizons, rather than limiting and controlling them.

You say in your post:
Public education is about putting citizens in the making in one place to talk to each other and learn together.  Is it an accident that when large numbers of voters fail to participate in a common enterprise with Americans not of their choosing that we have so little to say to each other during an election season?
I have seen a lot of anti-homeschooling liberals express similar sentiments, that home education is somehow inherently un-democratic because it removes children from the public square. This is a very limited understanding of the potential of learning outside of school, and in fact many of the progressive home-education folks I know would argue precisely the opposite: that home-based education takes children out of the age-segregated ghetto of school and brings them into the community at large.

As a home-educated child, rather than spending my days in a school building I volunteered at cultural institutions such as the public library and the local history museum, participated in community art classes and music groups, in sports activities and "field trips." I held part-time jobs as a teenager that not only gave me excellent work experience but also further grounded me in the community. I was involved in church, another locus of social interaction and civic participation.

Obviously, this is not an automatic benefit of home-based education. But I would argue that exposure to a wide range of viewpoints, diversity, and the values of civic participation is not an automatic benefit of public education either. Public schools can be homogeneous, and educators narrow-minded, just like individual parents and families can be. My siblings both attended public high school for part of their grade-school education and benefited from that experience; my brother now teaches art in a public middle school. I am grateful that public provision of education is part of our nation's commitment to its citizens, and feel that -- like hospitals or roads! -- public schools are our responsibility to fund whether or not we choose to, or need to, access those services.

Suffice to say, I believe it is a profound mis-characterization of home-education per se to suggest it is at root an anti-democratic, anti-public-spirited endeavor. Obviously, some people who make the choice to home-educate will do so for sectarian reasons, to withdraw from the society at large, because of profound disagreement with mainstream policies. There are examples to be found on the left as well as the right in this regard. But I would argue that this is a freedom-of-conscience decision. There is a long tradition in the United States of allowing parents to decide what the best method of education provision for their family is; compulsory education does not mandate form or content for good reason -- local, familial, and religious priorities and needs vary. There is no "one size fits all" that would work well for the majority.

I believe that demonizing/scapegoating people who choose to home-educate for religious reasons actually threatens the freedom of all of us to form and organize our families as we see fit (see: same-sex marriage, polyamory, attachment parenting, etc.). It is certainly within our rights to point out that some forms of parenting foster us/them thinking -- but home education is not the cause of that parenting outcome. It is simply the chosen method of delivery for some families. It is a tool, not a uniform ideology, and the values a family holds will shape how home education works for that family, rather than home education pre-determining an exclusionist, reactionary outcome.

In closing I want to thank you for your articulate, insightful blogging at The Chronicle; I have your blog in my Google Reader and regularly click in to read what you have to say. As a fellow blogger I realize that no one post can cover all aspects of an issue. In this instance, I just wanted to share my perspective as someone "on the ground" as a home-educated adult, who has been on the receiving end of fellow liberals' suspicion of home-based education for many years! I think that the picture is (as always) much more complex than outsiders perceive it to be, and conflating "home education" with "reactionary conservative isolationist" does more harm than good.



from the neighborhood: a day of un-labor

I hope even those of you who didn't get Labor Day off found ways to relax. Here at Chez Cook-Clutterbuck, we relaxed by watching a lot of Eureka and The Beiderbecke Affair and reading (Hanna a brick of an atlas on the Irish famine -- keep an eye out for her review in Library Journal -- and me two books on American evangelicalism).

And then there were the cats, who loafed like champions.

for some reason, Teazle was captivated by The Beiderbecke Affair
Human blogging = kitten snoozing!
(thanks to Hanna for the hilarious pics!)
Here's to the start of what will hopefully be a gorgeous and productive autumn!


one thousand eight hundred and twenty days [2007-2012]

This weekend marks the end of my fifth year in Boston, and it's become something of a tradition since I began this blog to post some thoughts about where I'm at in my relationship with the city and the grown-up life I'm building for myself here (see previous installments one, two, three, and four).

Five years. Half a decade. While I'm under no illusions that such a period of time makes me a New Englander, it does mean that I've lived in Boston for enough years that the geography of the city is populated with personal memory and meaning. Hanna and I are making certain pathways and places our own. And at some point during this year, I realized that I'd stopped asking myself where we might move next in the national sense (San Francisco? Portland, Oregon? Chicago? Vermont?) and instead begun thinking about where our next household might be in terms of Boston neighborhoods. I walk through the city now and think to myself, "Could we live ...?" "How far from the grocery store is ...?" "Does the bus run ...?"

More about that in the months to come, I imagine, since after six years (for Hanna, at least; four for me) in our current apartment we've pretty much decided to start looking for a new place in the new year. We'd like a place better set up for an old married couple (rather than two roommates) and kitties, and we're finally in a stable enough situation financially that we have some flexibility when it comes to paying a little more for extra space or a garden in which our cats can cavort in safety.

But that's all in the future. (And the 70+ moving vans I've counted in our neighborhood this morning are enough to make you want to stay put permanently!) This is a moment for reflecting back on how much change has passed through my life in the previous five years (aka two hundred and sixty weeks, aka one thousand eight hundred and twenty days).

My, it's been a busy half-decade!
  • House and home. 
    • [2007] I started out my Boston adventure living in a tiny dorm room at Simmons College. While not inadequate (and I appreciated pre-assigned housing as someone moving from out of state), it was only the second experience I'd had living in a dormitory -- the other being when I studied abroad in 2003-2004 at the University of Aberdeen. I had not anticipated how moving into a dorm and starting graduate school was going to make me feel immature and trapped, rather than ripe with possibility. It was not the best psychological twofer ever.
    • [2012] Since moving in with Hanna in May of 2008, I've been living on the border of Allston and Brookline here in the Boston metro area, roughly three miles from the MHS. We walk to work most mornings and often home again as well, through several of our favorite city neighborhoods. Over the past four years, we've shaped and re-shaped our apartment from being a space for two roommates into being a family home -- not to mention eeking out space for about 800 books! As I wrote above, we're slowly making the Boston area our habitat for at least the next five-to-ten years. Which is a much happier, healthier state of mind and place of being than I was right after the move.
  • Relationships and romance.
    • [2007] As I've written about extensively in other posts, I came to Boston with a (romantic) relationship history of nil and no friends in the area, other than the few contacts I'd had with Simmons students in preparation for my move (Hanna being one of them!). It was the first major move away from my hometown, away from my established support network of family and friends. And during the first twelve months of my time in Boston I was majorly stressed -- as in panic attacks, nausea, and extreme sadness over the geographic distance from loved ones. I wanted and needed, to leave West Michigan -- but the transition was not an easy one. 
    • [2012] Since then, obviously, Hanna has happened! In ways that have been fairly extensively documented here (are you all tired of wedding-planning posts yet?). So in five short years I went from being single to nearly-married, and from being non-directionally sexual to being in a lesbian relationship. Both of which have had fairly major effects on how I organize my self-understanding and relational life. In addition, Hanna and I are slowly-yet-steadily building a network of friends near and far: People we go to the movies with, have over for dinner, who kindly watch our cats and pick up the mail when we're out of town for the weekend. People we blog with, email with, host while on visits from afar. This is a major part of what makes Boston start to feel like home.
  • Learning and schooling.
    • [2007] As most of you know, I moved to Boston for graduate school -- like so many other people who relocate here! For most of my five years here, I was enrolled at least part time in the Simmons library science and history program. It had its highlight and lowlights, as chronicled on this blog. I'm super-proud to have completed my Master of Arts in History through documenting the founding and early history of the Oregon Extension program, and my Master's degree in Library and Information Science opened the door to my current work as a reference librarian, which really was my career objective when I started the program (inasmuch as I had one). So while I found the process psychologically and emotionally exhausting, and perhaps not as intellectually stimulating as I'd hoped, it did position me to move forward outside of the academy as a scholar.
    • [2012] Five years later, I'm no longer in school -- and so pleased about that state of affairs. I've come to the conclusion over roughly eleven years in formal schooling (1998-2005, 2007-2011) that institutional education is not healthy for me, despite the fact I perform well therein and many of its resources are useful for my intellectual explorations. So I completed my Masters degrees back in January and May of 2011 and have no plans to return. Meanwhile, I am committed to being a working historian as well as a reference librarian: learning, for me, has never been bound by the schooling. So we'll see where the next five, ten, fifteen years takes me!
  • Work, work, work.
    • [2007] I moved out to Boston with the promise of financial aid and a part-time position at the Barnes & Noble store in Boston's Prudential Center (an internal transfer from the store where I had been working in Michigan). It became clear almost immediately that the $9/hour they were paying me -- while a raise from my hourly wage in Michigan -- could not cover Boston expenses. So I began looking for other work, particularly pre-professional library work. I interviewed at a few places with no success before landing a position as a library assistant at this place called the Massachusetts Historical Society, which caught my eye in the job postings because I'd heard my friend Natalie talking about her research there. This October 12th will mark my fifth anniversary as a member of the MHS staff.
    • [2012] I had other jobs as a graduate student, of course (we all juggle multiple things to make ends meet): teaching assistant at Simmons, archives assistant at Northeastern, internships. It was good experience, but the MHS has always been my professional home. As I'll be writing about more extensively soon, I've recently accepted a promotion from Assistant Reference Librarian to Reference Librarian, a position left open when a colleague departed for the wilds of Rhode Island. The folks I work with have been unfailingly supportive in my professional endeavors and I'm looking forward to a part of the team for years to come.
  • Writing of many kinds.
    • [2007] I started this blog in the spring of 2007 to chronicle my graduate school and relocation experiences. As I remarked in an email to a friend recently, I'm a compulsive self-chronicler (an observation that will come as a surprise to no one reading this post). When I'm not blogging I'm journaling or emailing or jotting down notes for future projects. I think better with a pen or pencil in hand; this has been true pretty much since I learned how to write (though I was a bit of a late bloomer in that regard). 
    • [2012] Nine hundred and ninety blog posts later, I'm still writing, writing, writing: blost posts, fan fiction, academic papers, post-academic papers, emails, journal entries -- even documentary film scripts! Looking ahead to my sixth year as a Bostonian, I'll be completing a free-lance documentary film project with my friend Heather, which involves charting a family's genealogy in video form; I'll be forging ahead with my research on Nellie Keefe; I'm musing about a collaborative project on sexual fluidity with a couple of friends; I have half a dozen fan fics (Supernatural, Downton Abbey, Upstairs, Downstairs) waiting for completion, and I've been enjoying my gig as an occasional blogger at In Our Words. 
Shorter me: I'm becoming (have become?) the Crazy Lesbian Librarian Cat Lady of my dreams! Also, Elizabeth Brown.

grownups by xkcd
I'm looking forward to sharing the next five years -- at least! -- with all of you right here at the feminist librarian. My internet home.