Letter From My Mother

By Penny Perry

Daughter, my dying,
leaving when you
were only 16,
turned you wild.
(Yes, in new jeans,
we once planted
a perfect English garden
behind a picket fence.)

redtailhawkDirt in your fingernails,
ragged straw hat,
waist deep in cattails,
you coax orchids
from desert soil.
When the hawk,
guarding its young,
swooped down
knocking the hat from
your un-brushed hair,
digging its talons
into curls I once combed
with my fingers,
I would have ducked
as you first did.

But would I have then,
startled, and still shaking,
straightened myself
and saluted the red tail
streaking to the safety
of the wire?

…………………..

About Penny Perry

PennyPerryKateHardingMug

A three time Pushcart nominee, twice for poetry and once for fiction, my stories and poems have been widely published in literary magazines. Fiction Daily tagged my short story “Haunting the Alley,” published online in Literary Mama in August 2011.

My first collection of poetry, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage, was published in 2012 by Garden Oak Press. The collection earned praise from Marge Piercy, Steve Kowit, Diane Wakoski, and Maria Gillan. I was the fiction editor for Knot Literary Magazine, a Middle Eastern literary journal.

I was a screenwriting fellow at the American Film Institute, and my movie A Berkeley Christmas aired on PBS. And, I’ve just completed a novel about a school shooting. I write under two names, Penny Perry and Kate Harding.

Photo credit: Peggy Cadigan via a Creative Commons license.

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As I Am: a film by Alan Spearman

From The Bitter Southerner

He grew up in an impoverished Memphis neighborhood. He won the honor of introducing the President of the United States at his high school graduation. A year after that, he worked with two Memphis filmmakers to make As I Am. When we read about Chris Dean and saw this important film, we knew we had to share it with you.

As I Am from Alan Spearman on Vimeo.

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Go as one


By Scott Gressitt

PairOfTreesHow is it that we walk alone
and feel the void of solitude
yet buy into the voice that says
it’s fine for me to go as one?

I go as one. I go and go.
and then I meet another one
and for a season go as two
until the leaves fall. Back to one

There’s comfort in the walk as one.
I call the shots, I drive the day.
No other tells me what to do
or ever tries to fetter me.

Yet sitting in my hot tub I
alone as usual, dripping wet,
stare at the stars and think of how
your skin might feel just next to me.

It feels so good when you are there.
I can’t forget the slippery joy.
You slip and slide beside me, soft.
You are a girl. I am a boy.

Tonight there is a band of orange
and fiery red off to the west.
The sky is cobalt, earth is black
as I fly out of town alone.

I go as one. I go and go.
At thirty thousand feet I look.
The sun has plunged below the edge.
The night unfolds. The stars begin.

I leave behind my quiet life
and venture north to watch a friend.
He has decided not to go
on living just as one. No more.

He’ll change his program, going forth,
to walk with one more. More than he.
No more just he. He’ll now be two.
And he will let her influence him.

They’ll go, these two. They’ll go and go.
They’ll walk together, two as one.
They’ll share their food, their house, their bed
and learn to listen and to love.

They’ll shine as lovers, show the world
that two are better, better than
they were as solo pilgrims here
who walked alone in solitude.

They’ll think about each other when
they have to make a choice about
the way they spend, the way they live,
the way they move through space, now one.

The one they were before will change.
Though two of them, they’ll now be one.
Two bodies sharing vision and
a plan to live in harmony.

I go as one but join the throng
to celebrate the joy they share
to lift my glass, solute their choice
and lift a prayer that God will lead.

I love these two. I love that they
have found each other on this path.
I love that they will share their love.
They’ll go as one. They’ll go and go.

……………………………

About Scott GressittScottGressittMug

An amateur writer and rapscallion, I write of my past, a life laden with extraordinary events. I have walked in places most of the population avoids.

Besides scars and bruises, I’ve collected experiences that frighten, delight and entertain. I write with the intent to take you on a wild ride where all your senses are fully engaged. Enjoy.

Photo credit: Bhaskar Peddhapati via a Creative Commons license.

3 Comments

Living as a Black Man in America

 

For Michael Brown/Ezell Ford and many others

08/21/2014

By Conney Williams

DontShooti don’t understand how to feel anymore. about living as a black man. i don’t know how i’m supposed to live as a black man in america. because even if you obey and surrender (Michael Brown) the probability is that they will still shoot you. they negotiated and arrested the Unabomber; they arrested Timothy McVeigh; the mentally ill young man in Colorado still had his weapons with him and they negotiated with him and arrested him. all of them were “MASS MURDERERS.” over and over again we see the disparity of treatment for Black males. i feel as though we are (Black Males) these rare animals that are hunted until we become extinct. and then this young man was shot nine (9) times. then after he was dead, they handcuffed him. but i am sure that that was protocol. the indignity of it ALL is nauseating and sickening on so many levels. the hard part for me, is that i know that ALL policemen aren’t inherently BAD. but it’s the CULTURE that is perpetuated, by “GOOD” cops not speaking out against what is happening when they know it’s wrong. the st. louis police reported that he had the knife raised, within 4 feet, and attacked the officers. that certainly wasn’t the case in the video. his hands were at his side. i don’t understand how to feel anymore. about living as a black man. i honestly don’t know how i’m supposed to live as a black man in america. should i become a modern day Stepin Fetchit? a caricature of man begging white america to see me as human? am i not entitled to the same air and inalienable rights as they? should i arm myself with the same type of military arsenal and shoot-first mentality because i am afraid for my life every time i leave the almost safe confines of my home? i say almost because, just last year, a police officer pulled his service revolver to shoot me on my own front porch after i had committed no crime, and even after i had voluntarily allowed him to search me for weapons, that i don’t own, and I was wearing no shirt and just pajama bottoms. i don’t understand how to feel anymore. about living as a black man. i honestly don’t know how i’m supposed to live as a black man in america. maybe i am not human. maybe as a black man i am only 3/5ths human. unevolved and deserving to be put down. how do i tell my son that he must stay hidden in brush? don’t show yourself. keep your head down and don’t become overly emotional. how do i tell my son that mass murderers are given more of a benefit of the doubt than he will ever receive in this country? maybe he’ll learn to hate his blackness as much as Michael Jackson did. i grew up in an era when my silence and submission were necessary for survival. that era is still here. i don’t understand how to feel anymore. about living as a black man. i honestly don’t know how i’m supposed to live as a black man in america.

……………………….

Read more of Conney’s work here.

Image credit: Mike Licht via a Creative Commons license.

 

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Till death do us part: Violence against women in So. Carolina

A Special Investigation from The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.
By Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff

 

More than 300 women were shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, bludgeoned or burned to death over the past decade by men in South Carolina, dying at a rate of one every 12 days while the state does little to stem the carnage from domestic abuse.

More than three times as many women have died here at the hands of current or former lovers than the number of Palmetto State soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

It’s a staggering toll that for more than 15 years has placed South Carolina among the top 10 states nationally in the rate of women killed by men. The state topped the list on three occasions, including this past year, when it posted a murder rate for women that was more than double the national rate.

Awash in guns, saddled with ineffective laws and lacking enough shelters for the battered, South Carolina is a state where the deck is stacked against women trapped in the cycle of abuse, a Post and Courier investigation has found.

Couple this with deep-rooted beliefs about the sanctity of marriage and the place of women in the home, and the vows “till death do us part” take on a sinister tone. …

Click here to read the series and watch related videos.

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To those who text while driving

This is a good one. Maybe it’ll do the trick.

Thanks to WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken for making the PSA available.

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Book Review: No Safe House by Linwood Barclay

Reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

In No Safe House (NAL Hardcover, August 5, 2014), from the internationally bestselling author Linwood Barclay, teenaged Grace Archer has hooked up with the wrong boy. She follows him into an uncertain situation, and things go from bad to horrible, pulling her family into a world of big money crime and vicious, coldhearted murder.

Barclay, an American raised in Canada, is one of today’s finest thriller writers. In his latest, he has created a layered story with two sets of antagonists, one group only half bad, working the wrong side of the law with a bit of a soft side, a bit of haplessness, like a gang Donald Westlake might have conjured. And another pair, who are deep-down malevolent, vile, like something John D. McDonald might have dreamed up in his early, pre-Travis McGee novels.

No_Safe_House cvrWhat No Safe House’s bad guys want is money—and more—and Grace’s stumble into their mix adds a new dimension to the power struggle between these forces of evil. Grace’s misstep also draws in her parents, Terry and Cynthia. They struggle to extricate her from the deadly mire, with the help of a complex criminal who saved their lives seven years earlier, a story told in Barclay’s bestselling No Time For Goodbye (Bantam, September 27, 2007). No Time For Goodbye was Barclay’s first truly successful novel after a stint as a newspaperman and a writer of humorous detective fiction.

Barclay gracefully gives enough backstory for the reader to make sense of what’s going down in No Safe House, without giving enough away to ruin any subsequent reading of its precursor.

Despite the labyrinthine nature of the tale—a story told from multiple points of view, with brief episodes that at first seem without context—Barclay is here, and in his previous thrillers, a top-notch writer of the “page turner.” His use of dialogue to advance the story is as deft as Elmore Leonard’s, and every scene draws you deeper into the world of the Archers—average Joes and Janes, who’ve stepped onto a slick and slimy slope, and slide in, deeply over their heads, to a murky world of ruthlessness, avarice and evil.

Enjoy the thrill of No Safe House. Then consider going back for more, with No Time For Goodbye.

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The Expose Project

A JOINT PROJECT FROM LIORA K + JES BAKER

The Expose Project posed this question:

When was the last time you opened up your browser and saw a beautiful image of a body shape that looked just like yours?”

The response sparked a glorious exhibit of art, the art of women’s bodies. Please visit their site at www.theexposeproject.com.

Expose

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History’s answer to the caterwaul of the contemptible

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

 

Some days, there seems no succor against the raging ignorance that plagues the United States. But others, there’s hope, and today, history has an answer: hearing loss.

Deafness of old ageI first learned of the joys of presbycusis—age-related hearing loss—while perusing the July 16, 1880 issue of the Hickman Courier (KY.). The article, “Deafness of the Aged,” reads, in part, “The gradual loss of hearing is effected for the best purpose, it being intended to give ease and quietude to the decline of life, when any noise or sound from without but discomposes the enfeebled mind and prevents peaceful meditation. Indeed, the gradual withdrawal of all the senses and the decay of the frame of old age has been wisely ordained in order to wean the human mind from the concerns and pleasures of the world, and to induce a longing for a perfect state of existence.”

What a surprise to learn that geriatric aural degeneration offers a certain bliss, albeit patronizing and dogmatic. But that’s not so bad because, well, isn’t today’s ignominy of ignorance giving you the vapors? Wouldn’t a wee loss of hearing provide a comforting mute to the blare of absurdity that greets our morning ablutions? Wouldn’t you welcome a respite from the barking lunatics who hound us through the day, nipping at our heels as we attempt to flee the mongrel bastards of bigotry, misogyny, idiocy?

One trepidatious step outside the sanctuary of my study, and my quietude is shattered by an onslaught of ill-reasoned offenses. Even the unintended irony of advertising renders me disconsolate.

Consider the for-profit online education firm K12.com and its recent news-hour ad spot, “Rewards.” The advertisement features a testimonial appearance from “Teresa,” a homeschooling mother who declares, “You just need to be a mom that loves their child.”

No, no you don’t. To take advantage of K12.com’s corporatized educational unit delivery system, you just need to be a mom who doesn’t care about English grammar. Those moms who do, know you just need to be a mom who loves her child. And where are the dads?

Perhaps some of them are lining up at the U.S.-Mexico border to terrify child refugees—the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free from drug wars, poverty and corruption.* The border vigilantes can join the uncommodious company of the Ku Klux Klan. Imperial Wizard Robert Jones, of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, is calling for a shoot-to-kill law to forestall the immigrant hordes from the south—including children. He said in an Aljazeera interview, “If we can’t turn them back, I think if we pop a couple of them off and leave their corpses laying on the border, maybe they’ll see that we’re serious about stopping immigration.”

Jones’ mind might be enfeebled, but hate is hate is hate, no matter how withdrawn his senses.

Equally befuddled by critical thinking, Brian Brown of National Organization for Marriage bellowed his buffoonery in a recent email attempt to refute the logic of same-sex marriage. Declaring definitions important, his point’s illustration was a G. K. Chesterton quote from his essay, “The Suicide of Thought,” in which Chesterton defends the need for categorization in order to communicate: “If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them ‘all chairs.’”

Indeed, chairs might be different in size or shape or color, in the individual character of each, but they have more in common than they are different, they all serve the same purpose—to provide seating—hence the common word they all share, ‘chair.’ Just as marriages might be different in size or shape or color, in the individual character of each, but they have more in common than they are different, they all serve the same purpose—to unite two committed people—hence the common word they share, ‘marriage.’

This particular of Chesterton’s essays can more readily be said to support the logic of same-sex marriage than to refute it, but Brown’s bellicosity blinds him to logic.

Similarly, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Thomas and Scalia appear blinded to any human experience they’ve not know as privileged males. (Yes, Justice Thomas wasn’t born into privilege, but, alas, he’s no Thurgood Marshall). The five justices’ recent Hobby Lobby decision, supporting a corporation’s right to impose its owners’ religious dogma on its female employees—blocking their healthcare coverage for contraception—buggers the senses much worse than aging, as it broadcasts the five justices’ incomprehension of women’s reproductive lives—and of the repercussions of their disastrous decision.

In fact, our nation’s abandonment of common sense at every level of decision-making, our abandonment of respect for others, of generosity, of gratitude for our many riches, of accommodations for the world weary, of reverence for democracy, of our collective humanity; this great and comprehensive decline discomposes the mind, prevents peaceful meditation, lays waste to the pleasures of the world.

And so I yearn for that decline of life, the decay of my frame, for a perfect state of existence. I crave the deafness of the aged.

Although, I’d far prefer that the blathering ignorami shut up.

Love,
K-B

* My apologies to Emma Lazarus.

Published by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.

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Two White Moths

By Penny Perry

    after Cecilia Wolloch

              for my cousin, Wendy

I’m sitting in our past
in the little add on room.
Grandpa and his friends
up the three short stairs
in the kitchen, drinking
tea, playing pinochle.

Two girls in light cotton,
reprimanded for some
small wrong. I crayoned
your Kodak face purple.
You pinched my pale,504793084_a7a00d8806_z
plump skin.
We are on our backs,
counting knots
in the pine ceiling.
Eugenia berries heavy
at the window.

Our own white-haired
Old Testament God,
Grandpa, pronounced us
evil and we believed.
In his sonorous voice
he told us above knotty
pine, there is only sky,
some arresting
constellations, Orion,
the Pleiades.
No heaven for your
mother, already lost,
he said, or mine
soon to fly away.

You tug my hair. I kick
your knee. Two white
moths fly in the window.
The whir of their wings
a mother’s lullaby.
The moths find our lamp.
Bodies soft as Q-tips,
one alights in your hair,
the second settles
on the down of my arm.

………………….

About Penny Perry

A three time Pushcart nominee, twice for poetry and once for fiction, my stories and poems have been widely published in literary magazines. Fiction Daily tagged my short story “Haunting the Alley,” published online in Literary Mama in August 2011.

My first collection of poetry, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage, was published in 2012 by Garden Oak Press. The collection earned praise from Marge Piercy, Steve Kowit, Diane Wakoski and Maria Gillan.

I was the fiction editor for Knot Literary Magazine, a Middle Eastern literary journal. I was a screenwriting fellow at the American Film Institute, and my movie A Berkeley Christmas aired on PBS. And, I’ve just completed a novel about a school shooting.

I write under two names, Penny Perry and Kate Harding.

Photo credit: NapInterrupted via a Creative Commons license.

 

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My Man, Bowling

A Short Story by
Dan McClenaghan

bowlingballsRuth and Ellis invited their next door neighbors, Clete and Juanita, out for a couple of friendly frames of bowling, losing couple buys the burgers after the game. They rolled down in Clete and Juanita’s car, and crossed the sun-baked parking lot and slipped inside, escaping the smoggy summer heat in the cool darkness of the Loma Alta Lanes, on Old Highway 101. The double-daters sighed in four part harmony as the air conditioning froze the moisture on their sweaty backs. They paid for their rental shoes, while Ellis insisted he needed a pair of size fourteens, when in reality he wore seven-and-a-halves.

“You know what they say about a guy’s shoe size,” he grinned, winking at the woman at the shoe counter.

The woman rolled her eyes, and Ruth, a woman who would know, said, “Then you ought to get yourself a pair of size threes.”

Juanita and the girl behind the shoe counter snickered. Clete stifled a laugh and wandered off to find a suitable ball. Ellis scowled and took his size fourteens down to their lane. And Ruth said to Juanita, “That idiot’s gonna look like a clown in those stupid shoes.”

Ruth was right. The rental shoes extended a good six inches beyond the ends of her husband’s toes, and curled upward, like something a court jester would wear, rendering Big Foot Ellis—as he began calling himself at the start of the first game—clumsy and unsteady of foot, and causing him step over the foul line into the alley in the fourth frame, onto the oiled wood, where he commenced to slipping and sliding, his body writhing, his arms jerking every which way as he tried to maintain his balance.

“My man,” Ruth groaned, rubbing her fingers on her temples as Ellis went down hard with a seismic thump that caused Juanita’s ball in the next alley to jump six inches off the wood and veer into the gutter.

“Son-of-a-bitch!” she shouted, as Ellis, on his hands and knees, crawled up the slick wood, and Clete said, “Don’t worry ’bout it, Juanita. That cheap-assed SOB’ll do anything to get out of buyin’ us a burger.”

……………………..

About Dan McClenaghan

I write stuff. I began with my Ruth and Ellis/Clete and Juanita stories in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the new millennium I started writing reviews of jazz CDs, first at American Reporter, and then (and now) at All About Jazz. I’ve tried my hand at novels, without success.

I’ve been published in a bunch of small presses, most notably the now defunct Wormwood Review. This was in the pre-computer age, when we whomped up our stories on typewriters, then rolled down to Kinkos to make copies, which we stuck in manila envelopes, along with a return envelope with return postage attached. Times have changed.

Aside from the writing, I am married to the lovely Denise. We have three wonderful children and four (soon to be five) beautiful grandchildren; and I am a two-time winner—1970 and 1971—of the Oceanside Bodysurfing Contest. Kowabunga!

Photo credit: Bill Harrison via a Creative Commons license.

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Endless Summer Nights

 

By Scott Gressitt

CellsPuzzleInAPetalYour eyes were closed, I touched your hair
I breathed you in and held you close.
My sheets, still potent with your scent
and all is damp.            We leave a trail.

The puzzles that we humans solve
are rife with wobbly, complex curves.
complicated by our filters,
always needing some repair.

I don’t know enough about you.
Dare I risk my resource bank?
You could walk off with my heart.
I could walk off with your soul.

Yet the months tick by and we
enjoy the moments that we share.
We could call the whole thing off
avoid the hurt that comes with care

But just for now I lay you down
and take you to the pastures where
no thoughts of pain or sorrow draw.
Be still and let me ravish you.
We laugh and talk the whole night through.
Together we take pleasure in.
We pass it back and forth until
the light grows on my western wall.

Our bodies, soft and warm, still glow
from loving treatment through the night.
Each tender word delivered softly
fills our hearts, our vines entwined.

The chemistry of sex and passion
touch, caress and kisses near
our softest places, causes networks
of entangled love and care.

I become yours, you become mine.
There is no way to stop this course
except to say goodbye right now
and turn from the inevitable.

Or we could laugh and share our thoughts
again, break bread and walk this way.
Sit knee to knee, engaging through
these seeming endless summer nights.

……………………

About Scott Gressitt

An amateur writer and rapscallion, I write of my past, a life laden with extraordinary events. I have walked in places most of the population avoids. Besides scars and bruises, I’ve collected experiences that frighten, delight and entertain. I write with the intent to take you on a wild ride where all your senses are fully engaged. Enjoy.

Photo credit: “Puzzle in a Petal” by Olga Berrios via a Creative Commons license

 

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Interview: Author Deborah Harkness, All Souls Trilogy

Interviewed by Kit-Bacon Gressitt

 

Deborah Harness will be reading from and discussing her final book in the All Souls Trilogy, “The Book of Life,” at Warwick’s in La Jolla on Friday, July 25, at 7:30 p.m. Reserved seating requires advance purchase of “The Book of Life” from Warwick’s, which can be reached at 858-454-0347.

Deborah Harness will be reading from and discussing her final book in the All Souls Trilogy, The Book of Life, at Warwick’s in La Jolla on Friday, July 25, at 7:30 p.m. Reserved seating requires advance purchase of the book from Warwick’s, which can be reached at 858-454-0347.

On July 15, the New York Times bestselling All Souls Trilogy concludes with the release of the final novel in the fantasy series by historian and scholar Deborah Harkness: The Book of Life (Viking, July 15, 2014). The Book of Life offers a conclusion likely to be as auspicious as the series’ 2011 birth with A Discovery of Witches, which received such early and eager praise, it launched directly onto the bestseller list.

A Discovery of Witches introduced the trilogy’s reluctant protagonist, contemporary witch and scholar Diana Bishop, and her forbidden “cross-species” love interest, vampire and geneticist Matthew Clairmont. While circumstances compelled Diana to acknowledge and embrace her inherent nature, she and Matthew pursued an exploration of the prejudices, prohibitions, and threats within their world, while in the company of a cast of vivid characters, including some gays and lesbians, all nicely mirroring themes of current polemics.

Shadow of Night swiftly followed A Discovery of Witches in 2012 and garnered comparable praise. Harkness’ adept writing—rich in historical detail, supernatural mythology, romance and humor—and her diverse and complex characters created a celebrated trilogy for adult fantasy devotees, a trilogy with a bold social conscience.

Now, after devouring The Book of Life, Harkness fans will mourn the series’ end. But the conclusion calls for a bit of retrospection, a look at the context of the trilogy’s launch and the implicit lessons Harkness has intended to convey. She shared her thoughts in a recent telephone interview.

“Part of what I was interested in doing when I started writing this trilogy was to see … can I make the past seem relevant and fun and sexy, but also get it true and right, and not distort it?”

Harkness was worried about honoring her characters, just as she worried that her students at University of Southern California might not see, for example, the human behind Henry VIII’s dastardly behavior.

“History should not be about judgment; it should be about understanding. And that really does feed my work as a teacher and as a writer. How can we use history not to judge but to understand?

“When I started writing these books in 2008, it was Prop. 8 [California’s anti-same-sex marriage ballot measure, which was eventually ruled unconstitutional] and the year before the [200th] Darwin anniversary. There was this sort of bizarre confluence of circumstances, like, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to inflict restrictions on one part of the population?’ We have a culture that says one thing and does another.”

Harkness says the relationships in her books are intentional metaphors for today’s prejudices—and enlightenments—and she uses readers’ fascination with witches and vampires deliberately.

“We can employ them to talk about and think about today’s issues. It’s about empathy. That is the number one thing I try to teach students, and it is the number one thing in the world.”

From Harkness’ heart to her characters’. In the author’s inscription of The Book of Life, she cheekily appropriates a quotation often misattributed to Charles Darwin, and ascribes it to her character Philippe de Clermont, the vampire patriarch: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Diana reiterates the message as she describes the love she shares with Matthew: “It grew because our bond was strong enough to withstand the hatred and fear of others. And it would endure because we had discovered, like the witches so many centuries ago, that a willingness to change was the secret of survival.”

And isn’t art—be it literary, visual or performance—an invitation to change?

…………………………

Click here for a guide to the characters in the All Souls Trilogy.

Also published by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.

 

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