- File Size: 4912 KB
- Print Length: 312 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0982693303
- Publisher: Wising Up Press (June 7, 2016)
- Publication Date: June 7, 2016
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01GSSGA7E
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
|Print List Price:||$20.00|
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Connected: What Remains As We All Change Kindle Edition
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Thirty two authors in this extraordinary anthology of poems, memoirs, and stories, write about relationships in a variety of life situations. What remains in situations that are in flux and often turbulent is some sense of connection. As explained in the introduction, this notion of connection expressed in the writers’ works does not necessarily mean closeness or something longed for, or even “willed into being.” It is simply there, a “fait accompli.” Connectedness may exist or persist through time, space, change, varied circumstances, and among people from differing backgrounds who have diverse values or propensities, and life experiences. This perception seems to be borne out as a theme interwoven throughout these works in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
This impressive collection is divided into three sections: Family, Friends, and Intimates in which profound truths, loss, longing, love, regret, joy, and sorrow are expressed by the writers. Here are some brief examples.
In the Family section of the anthology, Paul Hostovsky has written poems about the loss of a child who has grown-up and bears little or no resemblance to the child left behind. In “The Pocket Comb,” he says:
"The Magic of childhood is not knowing where you end and the world begins; is carrying pieces of the world around in your pocket like charms—a dead beetle, harmonica, deciduous teeth, a complimentary black comb."
In “Daylight” the narrator faces the realization that as his son grows older, he too is growing older and can’t turn back the clock of time. In his dream his grown son becomes a toddler again much like the change to daylight savings time:
"....like a time change in the spring when there’s more time and there’s more light, and it feels like the world is growing young again, though really it’s just as old as ever, and growing older, and darker all the time."
Through all of these changes, there is a felt connection between a father and his son.
In J.J. Steinfeld’s story, “A Brother’s Love,” the narrator describes his feelings for his older brother, Barton, who has been institutionalized for thirty-five years. He mourns the loss of the old familiar “howls, grunts, and roars,” (Barton has never uttered a single word.) and the head banging which he heard as a child before his brother was “put away” by his parents. The narrator feels a persistent connection with his brother and sadness that he will never experience the ordinary mundane world that we all take for granted. He exclaims:
Over the last thirty-five years, an escorted trip around the hospital grounds for Barton is probably the equivalent of a space journey. My brother has never been in love, never earned any money, never driven a car, never even taken himself for a walk down a city street."
Profound and conflicting truths about family members or surrogates after they are gone, are expressed in the poems by Hannah Thomassen in “Elegy For My Mother,” and by Maxine Silverman in “The one Story We Tell,” and in the “Helen Poems.” Silverman reflects on the close connection she had with her African-American caregiver growing up. She says:
My mother’s surrogate general—your duty meant enforcing her rules, but you hadn’t the heart, let me off the hook warning, “Why do you do like that, honey? You know it just makes your Momma wild.”
These conflicting truths are so poignant in Sharon Leder’s story, “Two Fathers, 1955,” in which Sara, an eight-year-old girl struggles to figure out who her real father is. Is he the “good father” who works hard, brings home goodies for the children, is “full of smiles,” and takes them places, or is he the father who “shriveled before her eyes into a crazy person crawling on the floor collecting dollar bills, a bum rummaging through garbage” to feed his heroin addiction? What sort of connection can Sara maintain with her father? In her frightening dream about her two fathers, she is filled with confusion and dread.
In the next section, Friends, a sense of connection that is embodied in friendships that endure throughout the years and across disparate situations is depicted. Some of these poems, stories, and memoirs revolve around knowledge or lessons passed on by friends from different cultural backgrounds from that of the writers. For instance, in Maureen Tolman Flannery’s poem “Mentors,” she describes how the sheepherder’s on her father’s ranch where she grew up became her teachers and friends, passing on precious knowledge to her about their lives and culture. “These men held knowledge not inferior to any priest’s—where the purest waters spring icy from the depths of earth,…” Flannery writes about the connection that will always remain in her mind and in her heart, “And there in the mountains, year after year, they were my teachers and my friends,…”
In spite of social class and cultural differences, Judith Gille, experiences a connection with Gracia, her Mexican neighbor. “In Gracia’s Kitchen,” she writes, “In the years that followed, she and I discovered how much we had in common….And like so many of my relationships with women, Gracia’s and mine is not only built on the affection we feel for each other, but also for each other’s kids.” Gille shared experiences with the women who congregated in Gracia’s kitchen every day and learned about herself and about love without having to travel far, just the “twenty-seven steps across a tiny alleyway for me to learn that the true voyage of self-discovery is an internal, not an external journey.” She continues, “The real work of learning to love and accept one’s self doesn’t require exotic landscapes, breathtaking views, or creating a new life in a distant land. My friend Gracia taught me that.”
The narrator in Mark Tarallo’s story, “Last Summer,” is transported to a time long ago when he visits the old house and neighborhood where he spent his childhood. He reminisces about the escapades and adventures in which he and his friends engaged. These memories strengthen the ties he has with his old childhood friends.
Annabelle Baptista-Baumann in her story, “The Hard Shoulder,” writes about two women who were friends growing up, then parted and took divergent paths in their lives. One woman remained in the small low-income tract house, while the other woman moved away and climbed to a higher social status. Mia comes to visit Anna, the woman left behind, and discovers that although reuniting with her old friend was not easy at first, due to their separation and changes in their life experiences, when “she was with Anna, ….everything seemed possible. She was no longer a puppet, she had purpose, and she was independent. Anna made her feel like she wasn’t numb.”
In Susan K. Chernilo’s story, “Women who Sit in Hot Tubs,” two women who were once lovers reunite as friends. They originally met at a women’s land community in 1970 and have continued their friendship over many years and across 3000 miles. Paradoxically, their connectedness may have stemmed from their totally different backgrounds. Chernilo remarks:
I’d grown up in a Jewish enclave in Brooklyn and she on a farm in Nebraska, where most of the town was either part of her humongous immediate family or one of the relatives. But we both always had one thing in common: we wanted to grow up and meet people who were not like everyone we knew.
The final section centers around intimate partnerships, which may be variously characterized by grief, loss, tension, disappointment, hope and joy. Although the ties within the relationships change, a palpable connection still seems to exist as revealed in this segment of the collection.
William Cass in “Truth Is,” writes about a relationship that revolves around a divorced couple’s severely disabled son, Sam. The father in this story is very devoted to his son and misses him when it is his former wife’s turn to care for him. The father still loves and longs for his wife, although she has remarried. The connection that remains between the couple is created by the mutual care of their son through a shared custody arrangement. He says:
As trite as it sounds, the truth is I don’t know how you stop loving someone you love. For me, it would be like suddenly trying not to love Sam: impossible. The truth is I don’t know how that works, and in spite of everything that has transpired, I’m not sure I ever will.
In his emotionally difficult story, “Enough,” James Vescovi tells about a couple who come face-to-face with a marriage having gone flat, that is, merely “sufficient,” while the woman, Mary Ellen, is dying. The disturbed husband says:
As Mary Ellen’s condition worsened, we found ourselves in what were, for me, tortured, philosophical conversations that reviewed our life together. And, of course, when speaking about our marriage, she used the word sufficient, which enraged me. But I held my tongue. After all, the woman is dying.
After his wife died, he re-visited places where they had vacationed when they first met. These trips triggered memories that “had awakened a hope that I had not experienced in a long time.”
The next story, “Need Somebody To Love,” by Felicia Mitchell, is about a woman who falls seriously ill with cancer and expects that she will die before her lover does--that he will be there for her when she is dying. Instead, he dies first and she experiences a profound loss.
I was the one who was supposed to die, or not die. I was the one who was sick, her hair falling out, her breast excised, her cells multiplying fast the way time flies and wrinkles in time. Even before it was my turn, I wanted to be the first to die. I wanted to die in his arms. I wanted to be his memory.
She comes to terms with her lover’s death by regarding him as “The ghost I love.”
I felt joy when he touched me then, as if his touch could heal as surely as drugs or radiation could heal, and the memory of that joy keeps my body alight with a passion that no mortal man will ever understand.
Mitch Kellaway in his story, “Touch,” describes how two women in a lesbian relationship experience gender reassignment together when one of the lovers transitions from a woman to a man. The story reveals how closely connected the couple remain throughout the process. The transgendered man’s partner is very supportive and when she strokes her lover’s chin which is sprouting hair and hopefully growing into a goatee, he feels reassured:
"The gesture was simple, affirming; it disarmed the last of my doubts. It spoke more than words alone about how little my manhood had unbalanced our relationship, how much transition was an accepted part of me, and therefore of her too."
In his story, “Influence,” Milton Teichman describes the tension, frustration, and pain that exist between Debra and David as Debra struggles to embark on a new career path. David continues to be loving and supportive throughout Debra’s trials and mood changes, but her fear of being dependent on David, threatens their relationship. She says:
“I don’t want to need you so much, David. I want to be able to walk away….”
“Has it occurred to you that I need you?” David asked. There followed a heavy silence and then she said, “I can’t bear the inequality between us now.”
David experiences a whole mix of painful emotions while his love for Debra persists.
Reading this anthology has been a real treat for me. The stories, poems, and memoirs are not only captivating, but they are beautifully crafted. I felt fully engaged with this collection of disparate works. Although the subject matter is often complex, the writing is not obscure or esoteric. On the contrary, it is quite accessible and easy to relate to. I think what impressed me most of all was the writers’ courage and willingness to grapple with emotionally difficult subjects. These are serious pieces written with sincerity and integrity.
Even though most of the characters in these stories, poems, and memoirs are probably fifty years or older, this collection transcends age; adults of virtually any age would find it interesting and quite relevant. This anthology is suitable in a variety of venues, namely: book groups, support groups, adult learning centers, creative writing classes and workshops, literature classes, courses in psychology, sociology, the family, women studies, gender studies, social psychology, symbolic and social interaction and cultural anthropology.
Review written by
Elaine Feder-Alford, Ph.D.
Retired Sociology Professor and writer
The anthology offers a cast of characters and a multitude of settings. Connections are the life line yet relationships are messy, frustrating, filled with land mines but ultimately necessary. Families, lovers, friends all provide opportunities to recognize what we all know but seldom acknowledge, we cannot control the outcomes. This book will move the reader to mark a page, share a revelation, feel the anguish and celebrate the ride. It is a rich collection of stories woven with life experiences. Pull a thread, open a door, you are not alone. One contributor, Hannah Thomassen, writes, "We must stand hand in hand, watch the creek come, with a turn of the head, watch it go. Open your eyes. We'll unpack the books, crack the eggs, paint all the doors blue."
I would recommend you open this book and see life through a different window.