March 15, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. This one’s mine. I pass dozens of street peddlers and beggars daily, and never fully understand what makes me reach for my change before one and not another. Running late, I know, stays my hand. Children don’t necessarily have me reaching for my pocket, but I suspect I help the young families more than the old. Why? Difficult to say. Not a partiality I enjoy recognizing in myself. But one factor invariably prompts the act,… Read more

March 13, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. It’s not mine. It belongs to Frantz Fanon, one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century. French West Indian, a psychiatrist and revolutionary from one of France’s colonized spaces (Martinique), Fanon wrote on Marxism, revolutionary philosophy in general, and post-colonial identity. In the introduction to Black Skin, White Masks (1952), he wrote a series of lines that sent shivers down my spine, because–like the best of literature–they spoke through a specific condition to touch on something… Read more

March 8, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. Last year around this time I was in Bogotá, finishing the CELTA training I needed to seek out English-teaching jobs in Colombia. I’d had a few difficult experiences in my first few weeks in the country, but quite a few culturally humbling ones, too. And so, with rose-tinted glasses, I witnessed my first International Women’s Day in Colombia, a day everyone seemed super excited to be celebrating. Every feminized person who entered my school received… Read more

March 3, 2019

  Let’s begin with a statement. I have no inner gender identity. To me, gender is the label others put to my public self, and sex is the body I was given at birth and developed with pubescence. Both track as feminine, especially here in Colombia (where looking less like a foreigner means performing more feminine with hair and clothes), so I am read as “woman”, and referred to as such. And for me, such naming doesn’t matter. Those who know me,… Read more

February 27, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. There have been nerds in every era, and the 18th century was no exception. One such nerd was Sir William Jones, who attained linguistic fame with his 1771 Grammar of the Persian Language, and whose translations of (sometimes pretty seductive!) medieval Persian poetry inspired no less than, oh, Byron, Shelley, Coleridge, Southey–you know, the usual, Orientally derivative British Romantics. When Jones wasn’t nerding it up as a linguist and translator, though, he served as a judge… Read more

February 23, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. I have a nagging feeling I’ve mentioned this one before, so bear with me if so: it still relates critically to today’s essay. My first conscious encounter with “white culture”, to which I belong, came from a season-opening exhibition game for the children’s baseball league in my neck of Toronto. I wore my team uniform and had my giant, freshly grilled hot-dog in hand. The sun was bright and the bleachers were full. And by… Read more

February 18, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. My parents and I are on better terms, so we can laugh a little at the trauma experienced when I was younger. They both know, for instance, that in some ways the trauma I experienced in my family home was a stronger path to atheism than all my reading into different religions, science, history, and literature. I was the rare child who every Christmas watched It’s A Wonderful Life and wept… not because of the… Read more

February 15, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. A year ago I was saying goodbye to Canada, about to start my new life in Colombia. I had ever so much to learn: a lot more Spanish, the cadence of life in another culture, new administrivia, job markets, day-to-day dangers, and how to heal from the grief I was still carrying with me. But most importantly, I had to learn what I didn’t know, what I couldn’t have anticipated that I didn’t know. And that has… Read more

February 7, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. In this story, I’m obviously a secular humanist, because I’ve set up, over a series of essays here, an emphatic appeal for more humanistic voices at the fore of the secular front. Specifically, I want more voices to counteract the anti-theistic stridency associated with many non-religious spokespersons. More voices highlighting what we share, across the spectrum, in our efforts to improve the lot of fellow human beings. But then I read posts by others on Patheos who… Read more

February 5, 2019

Let’s begin with a poem. Specifically, a poem of mine published today for Rattle’s Poets Respond series. I had a good week as a writer: I sold a near-future sci-fi novelette set in Colombia to Analog Science Fiction & Fact, my fifth piece to this most long-standing of science-fiction magazines, and I sold this poem, “Intervention”, which is about Venezuela. Specifically, I used the story of my robbery, along with a few other encounters with Venezuelans in Colombia, to shift… Read more

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