Honouring Cindy Gladue

Two events in the past week remind me of the strength in collective action. This is one of them and the most significant in terms of public awareness.

A demonstration in 23 different centres from coast to coast to coast across Canada began with plans for a demonstration April 2 in Edmonton in front of the law courts where the trial of the accused murder of Cindy Gladue had ended in a shocking acquittal.

Gladue, an Indigenous woman, mother of three and sex worker, had bled to death in a bathtub in the Yellowhead Inn, a hotel in north Edmonton along the route from Saskatoon to Jasper, named for explorer and fur trader and explorer Pierre Bostonais nicknamed “Tête Jaune” for the blond streaks in his hair. has become a symptom of the contempt for the missing and murdered Indigenous women. So many of the signs “Colonialism kills” “We are human” etc. addressed the dehumanizing and deadly process of systemic racism. And this deep analysis of how this trial could come about in 2015 was there on the tip of everyone’s tongue. As the 1000 or so demonstrators headed south to Jasper Avenue from the Law Courts en route to City Hall, three Asian pedestrians approached the throng eager to cross the road.

Continue reading “Honouring Cindy Gladue”

Scrupling Canadian women’s nonfiction writing

to scruple

In a CBC-Radio interview on The Current, the distinguished Canadian peace activist and scientist Ursula Franklin introduced me to the Quaker tradition of “scrupling.” In response to my interest, Ursula Franklin emailed me in November 2010: “delighted that you understand my reasoning to revive the old notion of “scrupling” as an activity and the use of scrupling as a verb. Today we google. High time – I say- to scruple also.”

“To scruple” means “to hesitate as a result of conscience or principle.” This hesitation, a pause to reflect, is a move that invites a critical distance, a useful antidote to the status quo. The etymological root of “scruple” is —

from O.Fr. scrupule (14c.), from L. scrupulus “uneasiness, anxiety, pricking of conscience,” lit. “small sharp stone,” dim. of scrupus “sharp stone or pebble,” used figuratively by Cicero for a cause of uneasiness or anxiety, probably from the notion of having a pebble in one’s shoe. The verb meaning “to have or make scruples” is attested from 1620s.

Canadian women nonfiction writers need  a “small sharp stone” to prick at the conscience of editors, publishers, literary prize jurors and reviewers. To think about the context in which Canadian women’s nonfiction is produced, is to suddenly feel a pebble in one’s shoe, an irritation that irks.

We also need to prick at the psyches of those who minimize the value of writing, education, the arts, and critical thinking. Our ability to communicate ideas and insight to others makes us natural candidates for engagement in public discussion and debate. We need spaces to share information, to publish reviews and observations about writing and life, to invite writers to investigate the politics and poetics of our cultural life and our everyday.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to locate a digital meeting place of writers and readers, an archive of work, a space for reviews and reflections. What would it look like? What would it do? How might it help us innovate in our own writing, share the insights of others, provide us with information about how to break down and through institutional barriers? How might it influence and inform? How might a collective writing space explore and undo limiting attitudes, even those that remain unspoken.  How could we make common cause to ensure that ethnocentrism and racism don’t remain the unarticulated status quo of the way things tend to work in our world? Continue reading “Scrupling Canadian women’s nonfiction writing”

Vida on women’s writing in “The Best American Count” …

Our most recent count examines the contents of the Best American anthologies in poetry, fiction, and essays. When we released our 2010 Count back in February, a common response from our readers was a request for more information about the data behind our pie charts. With that in mind, we have expanded our presentation to include the tables shown below, which are based on the spreadsheets we use to generate our Count pie charts. We think these tables better represent the data, and reveal more of the complex set of questions and issues raised by it.
In the Best American Essays Series from 1986 through 2010, the numbers look dire across the board. Works by women accounted for only 29% of those published in the anthology. There was only one year in twenty-five that the number of works by women published in the anthology outnumbered the works by men.