by Emily Dietrich

April 22, 2018
by Emily
Comments Off on Confronting Racism in My Siblings in Spirit

Confronting Racism in My Siblings in Spirit

Here is a comment from a white female FB friend I met through book publishing:

“My God people, if you sit in a restaurant for 25 minutes and absolutely refuse to order anything you are loitering and they have the right to ask you to leave. Order a fricking cup of coffee or a bottle of water. Otherwise wait for your very tardy friend outside. They were within their rights to ask them to leave. It wasn’t about them being black, it was about store loitering policies [sic]. This stupid race shit has guy [sic] to stop.”

(I responded in an attempt to interrupt her racism that I don’t share here because I don’t want feedback on whether or not I responded correctly.)

I need to acknowledge that I have no expectation that she, a distant FB friend, shares my morals. Therefore, finding out that she was racist did not disturb and surprise me as much as it does when my Unitarian Universalist siblings in spirit reveal theirs in equally oblivious ways. When UUs do so, I am much more agitated. I believe that this is an appropriate response on my part.

I believe it is appropriate when discovering that people you love, admire, support, serve, listen to, feed, clean up after, plan events for, whose kids you’ve taught, whose worships you’ve planned and carried out, say racist things, to speak in a way that reveals the way you really feel, the deep and intense feeling of shock and disappointment you feel. When the SOULS of my white siblings are at stake and the BODIES of my siblings of color are at stake, I will not watch my tone.

I believe speaking in my own voice is a manifestation of being human, being loving, and being true to myself in an integrated and authentic manner. I honor myself when I do so, and I equally honor my UU siblings when I do so. I hold them to the same standards I hold myself. This is adult to adult interaction, one of the most sacred interchanges we have.

And when it comes to white people and racism, those standards have never EVER, in the history of the United States of America, been high enough.

September 8, 2017
by Emily

Dancing in Dark Times: Twin Peaks: The Return Finale

* spoilers*

I watched every minute of Twin Peaks: The Return, but I experienced a few of those moments in what felt like an altered state. Those moment took me into a surreal world, where I lived for moments. The Convenience Store’s flood of woodsmen entered the place in my brain and being where nightmares are made and believed. My disbelief was not suspended, but consumed, negated, by the power and threat of the images and sounds Lynch and Frost showed us. That amorphous badness, the moving, evolving, elusive kind expressed a sense the world I feel I live in right now, one that relentlessly pumps wicked goo into the lives of earthlings.

Only an equally amorphous moment can combat that feeling and experience, and Lynch and Front provided two of them from in the finale. Throughout the season, music offered respite during every episode. At the Bang Bang Bar, people forget their troubles as they drink and sway to songs.Watching, Lynch, I have learned to surrender to not knowing what’s going on. It’s useful for me, since, no matter how many papers and posts I read, I will never know what’s going on.

First, Audrey’s dance expressed freedom, beauty, creativity, hope, and love through her gentle, graceful movements, representing a whole body feeling music and creating movement from it. Audrey herself gained no lasting comfort from it, seeming terrified after a brawl broke the spell and she rejected herself in the bright light and mirror. Yet I was transported by her movement, the music, and Audrey’s temporary release from her grinding, confusing reality.

Second, Diane’s quiet dance of lovemaking with Coop healed her rape and added justice and pleasure into humanity’s power to confront toxic greed and violence. Diane wasn’t Diane, it’s true, but she looked like Diane to us, and she had control and serenity while making love. She was not a victim, but a participant. Their moving together was the point–we aren’t shown climaxes–the human act of physical connection that we can do even after atomic evil has entered our soil.

There is no final healing in the finale, I admit. Even after 25 years, even if Laura had never died, we can’t erase the pain in her life. She found some other pain. Cooper wanted to erase it, believed he could as he walked up to the house thinking he Laura would finally be home, but that’s not how it works. Lynch won’t let it work that way; neither will life, the universe, or everything.

But the finale was enough for me. Those two scenes were truth-telling poems, telling truths just as decisive as the bomb’s evil. Lynch and Front created an altered state for me, one in which I plombed the depths of our world’s putrefaction, but where I could also receive a message of humanity’s tiny, momentous acts of love and art.

September 2, 2017
by Emily
Comments Off on Who Is Crowned Ms. Morality: Teresa Giudice or Paris Hilton?

Who Is Crowned Ms. Morality: Teresa Giudice or Paris Hilton?

In this week’s Us magazine, both Paris Hilton and Teresa Giudice were quoted. Paris, who is at Burning Man this weekend,  said that she had always admired Princess Diana, but she’ll never get to admired as much as Princess Di, because she’ll “always be judged” for her sex tape. Teresa, who served a year in prison for fraud and now raises her four daughters while her husband serves his 4-year term, said that her “middle name is Strong.”

Based on these circumstances and statements, I declare Teresa Giudice, star table-flipper and tantrum-thrower of “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” Ms. Morality. She served her time and she’s working hard. It’s not clear she did a crime-it could be her husband’s shady dealings were concealed from her. She’s not savvy, and she doesn’t have much self-control, but she has lived through the consequences of her actions. Now she thinks about her daughters more than her legacy or how she is viewed. I also award her the Ms. Morality crown because I appreciate that Ms. Giudice never seems to have aspired to be adored in the way that British royalty is adored, though she definitely wanted people to watch her on TV and buy her book.

Paris Hilton loses to Teresa Giudice because the heiress party-goer doesn’t own actions or characteristics that led to a sex tape of her existing and being released. She objects to the tiny consequence of having henceforth to “always be judged” because it reduces  her chances of appearing to be like her idol, Princess Diana. Paris regrets what she thinks is being done to her, not what she may have done. It’s only because some bad person released her sex tape, she thinks, that she has lost the opportunity to be admired as Princess Diana was. Never mind that Hilton doesn’t, for example, walk through mine fields to raise awareness of land mine dangers. It’s that damned sex tape that deprives her of pristine princess status in her opinion.

I used to try like hell to avoid experiencing any kind of negative consequence. I couldn’t even handle not having my homework in time, and I would fib and wheedle to avoid any penalty. I had to go to detention once for being late to French class too many times, and from that I concluded that my French teacher was a bitch, not that I should figure out how to get there on time. I once told my mother I must have dreamed (though I knew I had NOT) that I had asked for and received permission to wear her dark blue cashmere sweater to avoid her annoyance and disapproval when she discovered me in it. I cringe when I think of that (and SOOOO much more BS  I spouted), but I was a TEENAGER then.

Paris Hilton is a grown woman. So is Teresa Giudice. But only the scrappy lady from Jersey acts like one.


December 17, 2016
by Emily
Comments Off on Indie, Quirky, and Forgotten Books for the Reader on Your List Who Has Read Everything

Indie, Quirky, and Forgotten Books for the Reader on Your List Who Has Read Everything

book-giftI figure some of you may not want the most recent, expensive hardcover new releases for the readers on your holiday list. So here are some of my recommendations.

I love books, and I read a lot of them. Far from systematic, my book-choosing method depends on where I’m standing in the book store, what dream I had the night before, what problems my friends are having, a book reading I go to. It’s not the bestseller or the Best Books of the year list from a prestigious newspaper.


Trace by Lauret Savoy (Counterpoint Press, 2015) Poetic and political memoir centered on the geology of the United States. This shakes up your thinking—in a good way.

Reptile House by Robin McLean (BOA Editions, 2015) you’ve never read short stories like this before!

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison (Vintage Book, 2015) Examines color bias within the African American community and

What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas (Scribner, 2015) Her most recent memoir will make you feel better about everything.

So Last Year But So, SO Good

Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberta Urrea (Back Bay Books, 2005) Illuminating novel about Mexican history told in excellent prose and layered story telling.

We Are Water by Wally Lamb (Harper Perennial, 2014) Lamb offers insights into parenting and relationships, different ways to hurt people and to forgive them, too.

Love by Toni Morrison (Vintage Books, 2005) you’ll get what you want from Ms. Morrison

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Juno Diaz (Riverhead Books, 2007) If you don’t fall in love with Oscar and root for him all the way, you’ve got no heart!

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (Random House, 2000) Chabon writes masterpieces, and he has a new book out, but if you haven’t read this one, it’s time.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (Europa Editions, 2006) Not sure how a story about two introverted geniuses can be a thriller, too, but this is.

Graphic Memoirs

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) Now on the reading list of many college classes and a Broadway musical

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon Books, 2000) Iranian Satrapi shows us the Iraq she grew up in and left

Smile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic Graphix, 2010 and 2014) This set depicts teen angst delightfully

Stitches by David Small (McClelland and Stewart, 2010) This prolific illustrator and author of children’s works lets us in to his own past

Couch Tag by Jesse Reklaw (Fantagraphics Books, 2013) The story of a family’s journey through divorce and moves, adolescence, failure and love

Cecil and Jordan in New York Stories by Gabrielle Bell (Drawn and Quarterly, 2009) Two people trying to make it work

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me:A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney (Gotham Books, 2012) Forney’s voice and art pack a punch, as does her honesty about her struggle to get help for bipolar disorder

Some Lovely Novels

The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama (Saint Martin’s Griffin, 1994) Lyrical story of stoicism in China and Japan during illness and war (reviewed on this blog–see archives)

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee (Penguin Books, 2009) A regular woman gets swept up in history and finds her strength

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford (Ballantine Book, 2013) An Asian-American orphan searches for his mother in Seattle during the Depression


The Last of the Good Girls: Shedding Convention, Coming Out Whole by Mary Ann Woodruff (2013) Woodruff’s beautiful prose reveals her journey toward coming out

Split: A Child, A Priest, and the Catholic Church: A Memoir by Mary Dispenza (2014) This unflinching memoir highlights faith and love in the face of abuse

Best Classic You’ve Never Heard Of

Vein of Iron by Ellen Glasgow (Harvest/HBJ Books, 1935) Glasgow brought me a new standard in integrity with her characters. Their quiet, strong wills stayed with me through some hard times in my life. I wish everyone I know had read it so I could refer to it.

Groundbreaking work that everyone is supposed to have read but most people can’t get through for the eccentric on your list

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1967) Edition I read: (Harper Perennial, 1991) He does a whole thing with subverting the narrative chronology that made fiction rethink itself

Shameless Plug

The Angled Road  by Mount Holyoke College Puget Sound Writers (2016) This multi-genre collection takes its title and theme from Emily Dickinson’s poem “Experience Is the Angled Road.” $9.99 Proceeds support institutions that encourage women’s voices.

For Something Completely Different

The Librarian’s Almanaq by Roy Leban (Almanaq, 2015) This book is not read by a reader by done by solvers. It is to be ripped apart and reassembled for an hours-long puzzle session for 1-10 people (ideally 4-6) people, teen to adult.

Page Turners

Dying Breath by Wendy Corsi Staub (Zebra Book, 2008) Mystery

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult (Simon and Schuster, 2007) Explores vicissitudes of fertility issues amid divorce

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand (Little, Brown and Company, 2013) Will the wedding ever work out?

The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café by Alexander McCall Smith (Anchor Books, 2014) I can never get enough Precious Ramotswe, the Botswana detective, and the sweet, wise, funny way she gets it all straightened out every time. Note: the author is not from Botswana.

October 15, 2016
by Emily
1 Comment

It Had A Name: Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

In 1974, my friend and I experienced our first criminal sexual incident. We were 11, just beginning 6th grade. We lived in a nice neighborhood in Kalamazoo, Michigan: trees and lawns and sidewalks for bikes, driveways for hopscotch, backyards with swing sets and jungle gyms, one yard even big enough for baseball games. My father was a lawyer; hers was a salesman. Both of our mothers, former teachers, were stay-at-home moms. We played outside until dark after dinner any time weather permitted. Everyone assumed that was perfectly safe.

That early fall night, my friend and I took a walk down a hill tree-covered hill, walking in the very middle of the street, scorning the sidewalks and our parents’ rules. Our destination: Inkster Bridge. There, believe it or not, we entertained ourselves by waving at the frustratingly infrequent cars passing under us, hoping to be rewarded with a return wave. We goofed around while we waited, chewing gum, kicking some crispy fall leaves around. Neither of us wore a bra yet. We were probably wearing polyester shirts and pants our mothers ordered from catalogues.


Watching cars in the ’70s had in it an inherent game, which we called Love Bug, but I’ve heard others call it Slug Bug. In our game, your goal was to be the first person to spot a Volkswagen Beetle on the road and yell “LOVE BUG” before anyone else. Sometimes you might punctuate your yell with “I called it,” further establishing your claim to the first sighting. My friend and I adored VW bugs, because that summer we had seen the 1968 movie, “Love Bug.” We loved the car and the characters and, without VCR or streaming services, re-enaccted and retold and rehashed it in our own little ways.

So it felt pretty great when a VW beetle pulled up right next to us on the bridge! And stopped!


“EVER SEEN ONE OF THESE BEFORE?” the white male driver shouted at us, angling himself to make eye contact from across the passenger side. Pants pushed to his knees, he was masturbating (we didn’t know that word) vigorously. To me his penis seemed huge. He watched us watch him for who knows how long and then drove away.

I didn’t like that. I didn’t understand what had happened. We didn’t know what to say about it. We didn’t have words for the experience we had just had or the feelings we were now feeling.

We walked home, and I never said a word to my parents. My friend told her parents, an act I scorned and considered weak. To me, I had experienced a grown-up moment, and I expected myself to be able to handle that on my own, since I was growing up, wasn’t I? You’re not supposed to go tattling and telling to your parents. That’s for babies.

I realized as I wrote this that my friend and I didn’t take walks on Inkster Bridge after that. We always walked on Westnedge Avenue, a very busy street where it was impossible for a car to pull over or even to slow down without risking being rear-ended. While our friendship lasted we would say knowingly to each other “Inkster Bridge” or “EVER SEEN ONE OF THESE BEFORE?” And then we’d laugh, though I know I forced my laugh sometimes . . . maybe that helped us process it.

The first time I was mad about it was after watching Thelma and Louise. And now Trump has gotten me mad in a new way. And the first time I wondered what crime had been committed was tonight, so I Googled it.

Mr. EVER-SEEN-ONE-OF-THESE-BEFORE committed Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and, following that, a lifetime of monitoring.

And we didn’t even report him to the police. That mother fucker. And what would we have said? As this criminal expected, we were not looking at his face. Amid the masturbation and first sight of a mature, hairy penis, we didn’t know what hit us. We knew the guy was naughty and gross, but we didn’t know it was a crime. And I myself did not know then or for 40 years after that evening, that the crime committed that day against minors under 13 years of age under Michigan law has a very specific name. For my own good I say the name again: Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. His act was very, very Punishable.

Six or seven years later, when I was a 17-year-old Senior in high school walking home from my bus, a similar-looking man driving an indistinct sedan, only two houses down the street from ours, stopped next to me, masturbating. I was as frozen as I had been before. As he drove away, I snapped out of it, started running after his car, pointlessly, yet indignantly. I wish now that I had had a can of mace with me, so I could have held it in his face, yelled “EVER SEE ONE OF THESE BEFORE?” And sprayed the whole thing all over his asshole face.


Now that another white male, a thug named Donald Trump, who has committed and gotten away with sexual assault and who knows what else, is attempting to become the President of the United States of America, women are telling their stories, as I am, and showing that we have not forgotten, that we will not allow it to continue, that we will risk the shame to ensure that the criminal gets consequences.

Check out the internet, Trump: EVER SEEN ONE OF THESE BEFORE? It’s an army of angry women determined to stand in your way.