AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research. Founded in 1881, AAUW is open to graduates with an associate or higher degree from an accredited college or university, as well as students currently enrolled in college. Dues support the operations of the Dearborn-Michigan branch, founded in 1933, as well as the state and national organizations.
The kickoff for The Big Read Dearborn was terrific! I left The Henry Ford last Saturday feeling that I was very lucky to live in Dearborn. It truly is a community rich in resources and impressive human energy. Watching major institutions like the Dearborn Public Library, the Community Fund, the Education Foundation, the public schools, The Henry Ford and the University of Michigan come together to benefit the common good of the residents of this suburb is indeed gratifying and satisfying.
The Big Read is an express lane for fellowship. Happily, Dearborn is promoting an opportunity for everyone to become invested in the common ownership of experiencing a great novel, Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. Over the next ten weeks, The Big Read is bringing together resources teeming with activities and opportunities designed to serve our diverse population (whether by age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, socioeconomic status, physical abilities or religious affiliation). This phenomenon is anchored by the unifying notion of everyone in the community sharing one singular-common interest.
I hope all residents will seize this collective responsibility and make the reading of this short novel an easily realized goal.
A great-university, literature professor once declared that “story is the primary act of mind.” Story is central to our lives. Each and everyday we interact with others by asking them about their day, and they respond with their personal stories. Published stories, with their vivid descriptions, allow us as readers to explore the world. They shape our values as we think about the dilemmas complex characters face. They illustrate ways to solve problems and help us understand human nature. Stories teach us to think about the mysteries and complexities of existence. Stories help us explore human values. They can even socialize us as we discuss them with others. London’s Call of the Wild illustrates the value of being able to adapt to change, that experience is a potent teacher and that survival can be exceedingly daunting. It also teaches how greed twists the human soul. Even though Call of the Wild is set during the Gold Rush, its thematic concerns are very much alive in America today.
At the kickoff event, Maryanne Bartles, director of the Dearborn Public Library, talked about the precipitous decline in numbers among those who engage in reading novels. It partly motivated the city’s decision to go after a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Mayor O’Reilly acknowledged that in this digital age, reading novels can feel a bit out-of-date but that the virtues of doing so are still intact. Marilyn Zoidus, Director of Historical Resources at The Henry Ford, gave a succinct overview of how America’s great fiction tells the story of this nation. Listening to Mike Moseley, from the Players Guild of Dearborn, read passages of the book in his sonorous baritone was a quick-return trip to childhood. Moseley captured the pleasures of listening to a loving parent or dedicated teacher reading aloud to engage children in the joys of fiction. Moseley did such a stellar job that he should consider a new career reading for audiobooks! Finally, Tom Varitek, Senior Program Manager-Program Operations at The Henry Ford, provided a delightful introduction to the screening of Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, an hilarious but poignant, motion picture with its iconic “dance of the dinner rolls.” To hear small children’s laughter and a young child nearby declare, “Daddy, he’s silly!” was a treat in and of itself. (Perhaps, The Henry Ford could begin to use its beautiful Anderson Theater for a film series of historic films!)
What was really great was how beautifully all these speakers’ observations linked to cognitive science! Today, research into inner space, the mysteries of the human brain, is revealing how profoundly stories stimulate the brain and even change human behaviors. Not only do novels illuminate life, they instruct us how to negotiate the complexities of human social-and-emotional interactions. Novels can even achieve spiritual dimensions which can improve us as human beings!
Vivid detail, powerful metaphors and affecting interactions among characters haunt the human imagination. Consider this: the only way information enters our brains is through our senses. As we read descriptive passages, we now know that the sensory cortex activates in the brain. As we read descriptions of physical exploits, the brain’s motor cortex activates. Brain research is proving that the brain stimulates the same exact regions, whether we are reading about an exploit or actually experiencing it! So, in effect, reading is reality!
One cognitive psychologist argues that reading is actually a life simulator. He states that reading “runs on minds of readers, just as computer simulations run on computers.” The same cognitive scientist claims that “individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.” So, in effect, novels replicate life itself.
As far as any of know, we only get one life on Planet Earth. Novels offer amazing opportunities to enter others’ thoughts, feelings, longings, frustrations, motivations and interactions. When reading an especially good book, fully engaged readers may suffer a kind of loss at the end, as now-intimate characters depart.
Reading provides enormous wealth for the reader. Vicarious pleasures are there for anyone who opens a good book. All the leaders in Dearborn and all the worker bees behind the scenes who have brought The Big Read to fruition in Dearborn deserve our interest, support and thanks.
Visit the website at bigreaddearborn.org to learn more. There are an amazing number of events you won’t want to miss over the next two months. The Big Read wraps up on Saturday, May 17, 2014.
- Wednesday, March 12, 2014,
- 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- University of Michigan-Dearborn
- University Center–Kochoff Hall
- Admission is free and open to the public.
Fourteen percent of military forces in the USA today are women. That number is expected to double within the next decade. We in the Dearborn Branch of AAUW are like the vast majority of our nation’s civilians. We are mostly oblivious to the roles these particular daughters, mothers, and sisters play. We are particularly oblivious to the dangers and traumas many of them endure on behalf of us.
While they sacrifice to protect our safety and security, many of these women lose out on multiple levels due to a generalized lack of support within a male-dominated, military culture.
When they return to civilian life, many bear devastating wounds, both seen and unseen.
SERVICE: When Women Come Marching Home is a documentary film that captures the true grit within women veterans as they return from places like Iraq and Afghanistan to their inexorably altered, civilian lives. One jumps at loud sounds. One is unable to exit her home; another is homeless. One is fettered by painkillers. Because women soldiers serve in today’s asymmetrical wars, where one’s world can implode or explode at any moment, the traumas they witness and experience are far beyond a civilian’s capacity to imagine.
- IEDs — improvised explosive devices — which leave many vets with prosthetic limbs.
- TBI — traumatic brain injury — which leaves many vets with cognitive and social impairments.
- MST – military sexual trauma — which shatters trust in fellow military personnel and can result in non-judicial punishment for the victims when their stories are not believed
- PTSD post-traumatic stress disorder due to things seen and people lost: death, dismemberment, anxiety and fear
Anecdotes shared in the film are fierce and chilling.
“Due to blunt trauma, I have crushed the nerves in my right arm/elbow, fractured hip, cervical arthritis, TBI from slamming my head on steel deck of my boat. The docs say at the VA that these injuries opened Pandora’s box with my body because I am battling the effects of an autoimmune disease which affects my balance, excessive fatigue, extreme pain, mobility issues and so on.”
“Sooner has been a Godsend to not only me, but my family as well. I have 2 little girls (ages 4 and 6) who have been able to have peace of mind that mommy will be OK when they are at school because Sooner can get the phone for me if and when I fall so I can call for help. He assists me in laundry, fetching items off the ground, stability in walking both at home and out in the big world. My husband says he has seen such a change in me since getting Sooner. The calming effect he has in me is vital in stressful situations.”
“About 30 min. into the mission, we hit 3 landmines that were pressure plated, so when our Humvee tires hit, they exploded throwing my driver from the truck and instantly killing my squad leader. The driver bled out within 3 mins. I remember nothing of that day, other than the snow and the mountains. All I know is what I have been told. I suffered leg amputations both below knee, a liver laceration, an intestine laceration, left-arm nerve damage….”
“In the Army, we have this thing called a ‘battle buddy.’ You never go anywhere by yourself, and you always take your ‘battle buddy’ because they are there to protect you and you are there to protect them. It’s the same concept with a service dog.”
It does not offer light-hearted, escapist entertainment; but it does promise enlightenment into the seemingly unceasing conflicts strangling so much of Planet Earth today.
Witnessing these female veterans’ post-service lives negotiate accomplishments both large and small is compelling. Their challenges to receiving benefits and care are sure to raise your blood pressure and your ire. The governmental bureaucracy exasperates even more than Congress. However, at least the service dogs depicted in the film offer a sweeter-gentler view of life. Dogs come off far better than people in this film.
We owe it to these veterans to bear witness to their experiences and to how our country treats them upon their return.
The screening at UM-D is sponsored by The Association of Women Veterans, Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Women in Leadership and Learning and the AAUW Student Organization.
I first encountered Anne Doyle at an AAUW-MI function that took place at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. She had stepped up to replace a speaker who was unable to attend at the last minute. Doyle was impressive and inspiring, and I was more than happy to purchase her book Powering Up! Anne Doyle’s Insights on Leadership at the end of the day.
In her latest blog, she cites having met a fantastic radio broadcaster recently while she was in NYC to record the audio version of her book.
Sandi Klein hosts an interview program entitled, “51%: Conversations with Creative Women.” How cool is that! A program dedicated to creative women!! It’s worth bookmarking on your computer.
Here is the print teaser for the radio interview with Anne Doyle:
“Anne Doyle’s been there, done that – Radio/TV journalist, businesswoman, speaker, author, local elected public official. As a Sports Broadcaster at the CBS affiliate in Detroit, Anne had the distinction of being one of the first women to break the all boy locker room barrier. She also joined the world of business helping to raise the ‘Steel Ceiling’ at the Ford Motor Company. Anne shares her story and advice in her book Powering Up! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders.”
Do yourself a favor! Hunker down sometime during this cold weather and listen to good conversation at http://the51percent.podbean.com/
This was a ghastly weather day: thunder snow, lightning, silver-dollar snowflakes that devolved into counterfeit slush and a heavy downpour. Clearing pavement became an exercise in the futility of trying to remove soggy-sidewalk bogs that refilled themselves as quickly as I tossed icy water and slush aside. Finally, I fantasized I was an Olympic curler as I swept toward the curb with blocks of sopping ice. The street with its drain became the target.
Upon re-entering my house, I noticed three-ominous symptoms. Sinus cavities drained. Throat stung. Nostrils dripped.
Post tissue, I longed to cuddle up with a good book, comfort food for the heart and soul. Branch-member Sally Barnett telephoned and extolled the virtues of Anna Quindlen’s Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Dr. B. had already hunkered on her couch and enjoyed a good wallow in a newly discovered good read. One critic had this to say about the book: [Quindlen is] “as close to a brand name as a writer can be. Her twinkling aphorisms, her gentle homespun humor, her mulling over what might be termed White People Problems: this is what her fans expect from her. And this is what she serves to them in generous portions in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.”
Dr. Barnett declared it the perfect read for a women in her middle years or early-elderly years.
As someone with a far-from-perfect frame I was tickled by a Quindlen metaphor in the book for the mid-life woman: “I’ve finally recognized my body for what it is: a personality-delivery system, designed expressly to carry my character from place to place, now and in the years to come.”
Although I have not read the book, I trust Dr. Barnett’s recommendations implicitly. I had been a huge fan of Quindlen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning pieces in the New York Times. When Quindlen left the newspaper to pursue writing books, I was flummoxed that anyone would willingly walk away from what I perceived as a dream job. After that, I missed perusing her columns for weeks. Eventually I got over it and moved onto other columnists.
National Public Radio compared her essays to the work of two other hugely successful authors. “[Quindlen] serves up generous portions of her wise, commonsensical, irresistibly quotable take on life. . . . What Nora Ephron does for body image and Anne Lamott for spiritual neuroses, Quindlen achieves on the home front.”
And Patt Morrison in a review for the Los Angeles Times stated: “What I really liked were moments about other women, like Charlotte Curtis, the New York Times editor who cracked the glass ceiling with white-gloved fists, and, it turns out, secretly paid the bail for feminists arrested for protesting at the 1968 Miss America Pageant (an organization that, I was dismayed to learn years ago, is the single biggest source of women’s scholarship money in the world).” Such delicious ironies in life never fail to amaze and delight!
Since so much of our branch’s mission-based work comes from monies raised at the annual, used-book sale; and since so many members of the branch enjoy reading, I thought I would simply insert some quotations from a range of Quindlen’s books. What follows is a sampling of observations she has specifically made about her love of reading. Certainly, many of our members can relate to these remarks.
- “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.”
- “Reading has always been my home, my sustenance, my great invincible companion.”
- “In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own. I learned who I was and who I wanted to be, what I might aspire to, and what I might dare to dream about my world and myself. More powerfully and persuasively than from the ‘shalt nots’ of the Ten Commandments, I learned the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. A Wrinkle in Time described that evil, that wrong, existing in a different dimension from our own. But I felt that I, too, existed much of the time in a different dimension from everyone else I knew. There was waking, and there was sleeping. And then there were books, a kind of parallel universe in which anything might happen and frequently did, a universe in which I might be a newcomer but was never really a stranger. My real, true world. My perfect island.”
- “Reading is not simply an intellectual pursuit but an emotional and spiritual one. It lights the candle in the hurricane lamp of self; that’s why it survives.”
- “It turned out that when my younger self thought of taking wing, she wanted only to let her spirit soar. Books are the plane, the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
- “Every reader, I suspect, has a book like this somewhere in his or her past, a book that seemed to hold within it, at that moment, all the mysteries of the universe.”
- “Of those of us who comprise the real clan of the book, who read not to judge the reading of others but to take the measure of ourselves. Of those of us who read because we love it more than anything, who feel about bookstores the way some people feel about jewelers. The silence about this was odd, both because there are so many of us and because we are what the world of books is really about. We are the people who once waited for the newest installment of Dickens’s latest novel and who kept battered copies of Catcher in the Rye in our back pockets and backpacks. We are the ones who saw to it that Pride and Prejudice never went out of print.”
- “…reading has as many functions as the human body, and… not all of them are cerebral.”
- “…books became the greatest purveyors of truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
- “Part of the great wonder of reading is that it has the ability to make human beings feel more connected to one another, which is a great good, if not from a pedagogical point of view, at least from a psychological one.”
- “A book–the book that was, for some reason, THE book–can be reread, unchanged. Only we have changed. And that makes all the difference.”
Chuck Gaidica of Channel 4 is predicting a rough night of high winds and power outages. I have my candles and matches ready. I go now to read a good book. As Quindlen knows so well, a hurricane lamp is good to have in rough weather, and this winter has pushed a lot of us to the breaking point. Take comfort in knowing that: “Reading is not simply an intellectual pursuit but an emotional and spiritual one. It lights the candle in the hurricane lamp of self; that’s why it survives.”
The rough part is officially over! As of today, we have reached the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. This winter has been rough on a lot of us physically and emotionally. It has repeatedly robbed us of warmth and efficiency.
We’re smack dab in the middle, but no one can deny that we are finally on the uphill side of cold-dark weather systems. Usually snowdrops serve as a sublime harbinger of spring as they bloom in late January, no such luck this year. However, I know for certain they’ll emerge soon! They presage spring as they poke pointy white buds to part frosty soil.
Since Winter Solstice (December 21) is the shortest-darkest day of the year, each day that follows allows us to gain another minute of daylight. Earth is hurtling through space, and as we spin the sun’s beneficent rays are creeping back toward the north. It’s been six weeks since the Winter Solstice, but winter’s long-dark-dank tunnel shortens as we approach the arrival of spring in another six weeks.
Glorious spring is a mere six weeks away! No matter what, winter is half over. So hearts leap in anticipation of the Vernal Equinox, now only 42 days away, just a little over a thousand hours! Feel the uptick as we countdown the days over the next month-and-a- half.
Spring promises to tickle nostrils when the scent of damp earth surfaces and energizes blossom time. Warmth will once again caress flesh as layers of clothing are happily shed. Spring makes all seem possible once more. Like the ground hog, we crawl out of our burrows and give up hunkering down and hiding out. Such anticipation tickles the mind with delight. It won’t be long now. We can endure!
Her father, Sargent Shriver, was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to oversee the War on Poverty fifty years ago. Now, after the economic disaster of 2008, millions of Americans (almost one third of our population!) face dire economic straits again. Seventy millions of them are women and their dependent children. Like eggs, their fragile fiscal fitness breaks day-in-and-day-out. In America, it is no secret that women are undervalued, under-respected and under-represented.
Now his daughter Maria has published The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink. Why are women so vulnerable economically? Why do millions live paycheck to paycheck? Did business cause this distress? The federal government? The family dynamic? Are women themselves to blame?
Since Johnson declared the war on poverty:
- More women work, but still earn less than men.
- More women are single heads of households.
- More higher education is essential to live a middle class existence.
The Shriver Report offers fresh thinking and pragmatic solutions. It combines research and reflection from a broad spectrum of individuals, some anonymous workers and others celebrities, as they focus upon women and the economy.
One celebrity, Beyonce Knowles-Carter has this to say in the book:
“We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet. Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change. Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters earn more—commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender. Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect.
“Humanity requires both men and women, and we are equally important and need one another. So why are we viewed as less than equal? These old attitudes are drilled into us from the very beginning. We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible.
“We have a lot of work to do, but we can get there if we work together. Women are more than 50 percent of the population and more than 50 percent of voters. We must demand that we all receive 100 percent of the opportunities.”
Tonight, AAUW is scheduled to talk about the gender wage gap on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Aileen Rizo, whose pay inequity story was featured on the AAUW blog last year, sat down with Maria Shriver for an interview. AAUW members will be tweeting during the interview from https://twitter.com/AAUWPolicy . If you’re on Twitter, tell us what you thought!