Tag Archives: feminism

Happy 92nd Birthday, Jack Kerouac!

12 Mar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAphoto I took two years ago at Kerouac’s birth home when I attended Lowell Celebrates Kerouac

On a Sunday in winter, Jean-Louis Kerouac was born to Leo and Gabrielle Kerouac in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was the baby of the family, the youngest of three, and his French-speaking family called him Ti Jean, or Little John.

It was March 12, 1922. Warren G. Harding, a Republican, was president and had just introduced radio to the White House the month before. Women had received the right to vote two years prior to that, but even the month before Kerouac was born the Nineteenth Amendment was still being challenged in court — a fact important to understanding the gender politics in which Kerouac grew up.

James Joyce’s Ulysses was first published that year by Sylvia Beach in Paris, and the experimental novel would impact Kerouac’s own writing. Kerouac himself would grow up to become the voice of his generation, the Beat Generation, a generation that had been born around the time of the Great Depression, that had seen the destruction of World War II and lost many friends and loved ones, that had faced a repressive government. Kerouac remains a startlingly refreshing voice even today, reminding readers to observe the sparkles in the sidewalk, to embrace life over possessions, to blaze their own paths.

KerouacCakephoto I took at Kerouac’s birthday bash last year at the Northport Historical Society

Clip: Scripps Magazine Features “Burning Furiously Beautiful”

27 Feb

2012-header-scripps-college

If you flip — or scroll! — to page 40 of Scripps Magazine you’ll see me featured in their regular column of alumnae authors, “ManuScripps.”

The column talks about how Scripps, the women’s college of the Claremont Colleges, fostered my education in the Beat Generation. …Which just goes to show you that feminists can like the Beats!

Special thanks to the Scripps Magazine and the Scripps College Alumnae Association for their support of my writing.

And if you missed it, here’s a post on the New York chapter of the Scripps book club reading Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

NY Chapter of Scripps Book Club Reads “Burning Furiously Beautiful”!

10 Feb

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The New York chapter of the Scripps College alumni book club selected Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” as their January read and invited me to talk about the book. I had such a great time talking with all these brilliant women about Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation and Millennials, feminism, and traveling your own path to pursue your dreams.

I’m actually a Scripps alum and wrote my thesis on the Beat Generation, which is when I first came in contact with David Amram. I feel like my life is coming full circle!

I hope I’ll get to participate in more Scripps book clubs and other book clubs in general. If you’re interested in having me speak at your book club, email me at snikolop {@} alumna.scrippscollege.edu.

Find Burning Furiously Beautiful on Amazon and Goodreads. Join the discussion on Facebook!

6 Best Books of 2013, According to Me

26 Dec

It’s that time of year when everyone’s doing their Best of 2013 lists, so I figured I’d add mine!

I know most people pick 5 or 10, but I picked 6. Why 6, you ask? For arbitrary reasons. Yes, I read more than 6 books this year. No, they weren’t all from 2013. And no, not every book that I read that was published in 2013 made this list. These just happen to be the very best of the books that I read that were published in 2013.

This isn’t a ranking, but rather a listing in a way that one theme flows into the next.

 

paradise

This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila

I saw this face-out on a shelf at Barnes & Noble, picked it up, and read the first few lines. The prose was exquisite. I’d nearly given up on fiction, frustrated at how it can be so overwritten yet simple at the same time. This was the type of writing I’d been missing in my life. The language is just gorgeous. I want to reread it already.

 

interestings

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

I had read Wolitzer’s The Wife in grad school and felt it was too heavy-handed, so I cautiously picked this one up after hearing the high praise for it, which almost always dooms a book for me. The Interestings deserves to be on every best of 2013 list. Not only are the story and the themes (the nature of love, the nature of friendships, family, jealousy, career, money, art, New York) thought-provoking on many levels, but the writing strikes that perfect balance of appearing both deliberate and breezy, literary yet conversationally authentic. It’s the type of book I want to now read reviews of and discuss with others, especially women artists.

 

LeanIn

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

I read this for my Scripps College book club, which is composed of alumni from a wide range of class years from the women’s college. We’re all at various stages of our careers, including stay-at-home moms, working moms with infants, moms whose children have flown the nest, recent grads who have just entered the workforce, and mid-career-level women in relationships and not. Some have Ph.D.s, others want to be yoga instructors. The resulting conversation we had about this book is that, in the end, you have to find out what works for you and that may change depending on where you are in your life.

I also happened to finally get around to reading a book a colleague had given to me a few years ago: Patty Azzarello’s Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work AND Like Your Life, which came out in 2010. While Sandberg’s book is chock-full of important statistics and food for thought, Azzarello’s, though perhaps not as carefully edited, offers tips that are actually practical for people in the workforce.

 

Print

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

This book, the true story about a Canadian journalist and her Australian ex-boyfriend photographer who are kidnapped in Somalia, gave me nightmares. Literally. I became obsessed with the story, reading articles,  watching interviews with the people involved, and following them on Twitter. It got me thinking a lot about perceptions of the West, feminism, and ambition.

 

Manana

Manana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez

The publisher sent me this book, and I was a bit leery going into it that it would come off as fan fiction, but Hernandez’s Manana Means Heaven is an incredibly important book to the Beat canon. Through poetic diction, this novel tells the moving story of one of the little-known people who crossed paths with Jack Kerouac. It gives voice to a woman who didn’t even know she’d been written about decades earlier in On the Road.

You can read my interview with Tim here.

 

heart

My Heart Is an Idiot by Davy Rothbart

I’ve written about Davy Rothbart before, having encountered one of the stories in this book in The Paris Review and comparing him to Jack Kerouac and then going to see him read in Brooklyn, where I met his dad and pulled a sword out of his cohort. This book technically came out last year, but the paperback came out this year, and it is brilliant. I had to stifle my laughter quite a few times on the subway to keep people from staring at me as I read this book. The thing is, though, there’s a lot of heart in this book too. It’s more than just a bunch of stories that make your eyes bug with incredulity over the antics Rothbart gets himself in. It shows the tenderness and beauty and wonder of humanity in all its forms, from an aspiring DJ to a con-artist.

 

Tell me your favorite books of 2013 below in the comments section. I’m looking for some new reads, and I figure if you read my blog we probably have similar taste! …And by similar taste, that probably means all over the board.

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

 

Friday Links: Aristophanes Edition

13 Dec

swellfoot

Happy Friday! I’m wrapping up Aristophanes week with some link love devoted to this funny dramatist.

Lysistrata is a name featured on the Heritage Floor at The Dinner Party, at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum

Pablo Picasso was so inspired by Aristophanes’ Lysistrata that he made several prints related to it, on view at the Met

Artist Aubrey Beardsley, who is often inspired by literature, also created a print inspired by Aristophanes

Obviously, there’s Radiohead’s Cloud Cuckoo Land

Lisa Borders titled her book about a young female busker’s search for home Cloud Cuckoo Land

On Fernhill Farm in Somerset, there’s a festival called Cloud Cuckoo Land

Festivals may seem very post-Woodstock, but Aristophanes was part of a festival back in Ancient Athens, called Lenaia, where he actually won first prize for his play The Knights

There’s an international architecture journal called Cloud-Cuckoo-Land

In London there’s a delightful period-clothing shop called Cloud Cuckoo Land

Percy Bysshe Shelley (Gregory Corso’s favorite poet) imitated Aristophanes’ The Frogs in the comic drama Oedipus Tyrannus: Or, Swellfoot the Tyrrant

“Aristophanes is ridiculous!” shouted Oscar on an episode of The Odd Couple in which he and Felix are contestants on the game-show Password

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

The Longest Word in Literature Is, Of Course, Greek

10 Dec

Ari

I always take a deep breath before I spell out my name for someone, a nonverbal warning to the person asking for it to prepare themselves. “N as in ‘Nancy,’” I say, then pause. “I-K.” Another pause, just like I heard my mother spelling it out so many times to credit card companies over the phone when I was growing up. The spelling out proceeded like that for some time, til all twelve letters were given.

Most of our friends get used to our long last name over time, so when I recently had to spell out the address of where my parents live in Greece for a family friend, I warned her to make sure she had enough room on the paper. This place name was long even for us.

I was not at all surprised, therefore, to learn via The Huffington Post, run by a Greek woman, that literature’s longest word can be found in a Greek play. Aristophanes’ Assemblywomen, an ancient comedy about the upheaval that occurs when women insert themselves in politics (things like: men must sleep with an ugly women before they sleep with a beautiful woman), contains a word that is 171 letters.

From Oliver Tearle:

Since you’re doubtless itching to know what this word is, I’ll give Aristophanes the final word: Lopado­­temacho­­selacho­­galeo­­kranio­­leipsano­­drim­­hypo­­trimmato­­silphio­­parao­­melito­­katakechy­­meno­­kichl­­epi­­kossypho­­phatto­­perister­­alektryon­­opte­­kephallio­­kigklo­­peleio­­lagoio­­siraio­­baphe­­tragano­­pterygon.

And if you’re curious what that looks like in Greek, I found it on Wikipedia:

λοπαδοτεμαχοσελαχογαλεοκρανιολειψανοδριμυποτριμματοσιλφιοκαραβομελιτοκατακεχυμενοκιχλεπικοσσυφοφαττοπεριστεραλεκτρυονοπτοκεφα-λλιοκιγκλοπελειολαγῳοσιραιοβαφητραγανοπτερύγων.

It’s the name of a dish that has about that many ingredients in it (okay, maybe only 16 or so but that’s still too many ingredients, and it sounds disgusting).

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Extraordinary Women of the Fifties: The Beat Women

30 Oct

“Moreover, I was puzzled to read in her introduction how ‘our idea’ of the Fifties is one of a decade reviled for being full of dull and docile women. This does a disservice to so much writing on the “other” Fifties, from Elizabeth Wilson on lesbianism and Angela McRobbie on girls’ subcultures to Deborah Philips and Alison Light on women and fiction,” writes Sheila Rowbotham in “Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women Of The Fifties, by Rachel Cooke, review” for The Telegraph.

Missing from both lists were the women associated with the Beat Generation. Here were women who defied the stereotype of being “dull and docile.” They were renting apartments on their own at a time when women generally lived with their parents until they got married. They were pursuing higher education. They were creating their own innovative, beautiful works.

Much of modern discourse surrounding the Beat Generation has to do with its masculinity and misogyny. Those are important discussions to have. However, I think it does a great disservice to the many talented female writers who were associated with this literary grouping. These weren’t just muses in black stockings. They were and continue to be powerful writers.

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Kalo Mina! October 2013!

1 Oct

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Kalo mina! Happy October 1st! The first day of fall was September 22, but the weather today feels more like late spring. The sky is a bright, bright blue, the color of parakeet feathers. I walked down to Union Square at lunch today and was tempted to play hookey just so I could sit in the grass and look up at the sky and dream.

September brought routine back to the city, and it was a busy month. A few highlights:

  • Attending Greek American Fashion Week and seeing the latest collections by Tatiana Raftis, Angelo Lambrou, Nikki Poulos, and Stratton, with hair by Christo Curlisto
  • Seeing Jonathan Collins’ Beat Traveller art exhibit in Paterson with Larry Closs
  • Conducting a live interview with Tim Z. Hernandez about his book Manana Means Heaven at the Spanish Harlem bookstore La Casa Azul and getting to meet all the great people who work at the bookstore as well as Tim’s insightful agent
  • Reading one of my personal essays about road trips, homelessness, and God as Jason Harrod softly strummed guitar at his album release party
  • Retreating to Connecticut for the Scripps TriState alumni book club
  • Attending the Brooklyn Book Festival with friends whom I co-lead a monthly writing workshop with and getting to hear Justin Torres read from We the Animals again. He’s brilliant. I’m obsessed
  • Watching Into the Wild. I know I’m late to the game on this one, but at least I had read the book by Jon Krakauer before. The film devastated me. It was beautiful and painful and haunting and true, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days….
  • Brunching with author Isobella Jade
  • Hearing Davy Rothbart read from My Heart Is an Idiot. I once wrote that a story of his made me “wonder if Rothbart might be my generation’s Jack Kerouac.” Yep, he’s that good. I was too shy to talk to Davy, but I met his dad and, despite my efforts to become invisible at the mere mention of audience participation, Brett Loudermilk selected me out of the audience to pull a sword out of him. Yes, you read that right
  • Reading Kristiana Kahakauwila’s story collection This Is Paradise — this is Literature. I am savoring it
  • Discovering H&M Home — whoops! There went all my money!
  • Finally getting Internet set up at my new place
  • Talked to my sister for the first time since she moved out of New York City
  • Imbibing my first pumpkin spice latte of the fall
  • Attending A Global Conversation: Why the UN Must Focus on Women’s Leadership
  • Oh and launching the e-book edition of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” with Paul Maher Jr!!!

So yeah, that was my September. What about you? Did you read any good books? See any movies that moved you?

Tonite: I’m Talking with Tim Z. Hernandez

19 Sep

New Image

Just a quick reminder that I’ll be expanding upon my interview with award-winning poet Tim Z. Hernandez at La Casa Azul (143 E. 103rd, NYC) tonight at 6:00. We’ll be talking about his new book Manana Means Heaven, whether Jack Kerouac was a womanizer, what it’s like to write sex scenes about someone’s grandmother, the difference between fiction and creative nonfiction, and a whole lot more.

Tim will give a reading and will sign books — and DJ Aztec Parrot will be spinning music from the 1940s and ’50s.

I’m super excited! Hope to see you there!!

Mediabistro posted about the event here.

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In the meantime, check out the awesome photos of Bea Franco and Tim’s guest post over on Rick Dale’s blog The Daily Beat, read an excerpt of Manana Means Heaven on La Bloga, and stop by to see Tim on The Big Idea. Then, follow along on the rest of Tim’s blog hop:

Friday, September 20 | The Dan O’Brien Project http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com/

Saturday, September 21 | Impressions of a Reader http://www.impressionsofareader.com/

If you happen to be in the New York area, Tim Hernandez will also be on a panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday:

The Poet & the Poem: Natalie Diaz (When My Brother Was an Aztec), Alex Dimitrov (Begging For It), Lynn Melnick (If I Should Say I Have Hope) and Tim Hernandez (Mañana Means Heaven) will examine politics and identity in poetry, and the complex ways in which a poet’s work can become intertwined with the poets’ personal narrative. Moderated by Hafizah Geter, Cave Canem Foundation.

 

I’m Talking with Tim Z. Hernandez; Join Us!

16 Sep

 

New Image

 

This Thursday I’m going to be in conversation with Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Manana Means Heaven, at the Spanish Harlem bookstore La Casa Azul. DJ Darren de Leon will be spinning music from the 1940s and ’50s. It’s going to be such a fun event. I’m really excited.

Tim’s novel Manana Means Heaven is about the real-life person who inspired Jack Kerouac to write one of the most poignant parts of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road: Bea Franco, “the Mexican Girl.” Tim tracked her down and interviewed her for the book, and she got to see it right before she passed away last month.

An award-winning poet, Tim pays close attention to words and imagery in his novel. We’ve been writing back and forth for a while now, and I have so many questions I want to ask him at the bookstore. There’s going to be a Q&A too so come with questions!

Here’s the essential info:

Thursday, September 19

6pm

La Casa Azul

143 E. 103rd Street, NYC

See you there!

*Please excuse the lack of the proper Spanish “n” with a tilde in “Manana”; I’m not tech-savvy enough to get my blog to use it.