Monthly Archives: October 2008

Hyde Park

You know how every time you read about something you know about in the newspaper, they get it all wrong? It makes you so mad — and it makes you wonder how accurate they are about all the things you read about that you *don’t* know anything about.

Well, here’s an exception that proves that rule (proves = “tests,” not “shows it to be true”). Peter Slevin wrote a wonderful article about Hyde Park that not only contains no factual errors so far as I could find, it also truly captures the flavour of the neighbourhood I call home.

“Hyde Park should be held up as an example of what an integrated community could be,” says University of Chicago law professor M. Todd Henderson, who grew up in a white Pittsburgh suburb. “It wasn’t some sort of social experiment.”

Henderson says his adopted community is a place where ideas matter more than pedigree and one cannot infer social status by skin color. He says the visible hardships in nearby neighborhoods and the persistent threat of crime undermine any notion that Hyde Park is, in his words, “a fantasy land.”

“To criticize Hyde Park as being aloof, out of touch and elitist is just poppycock,” he says. “I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, and there is nothing America should be ashamed about Hyde Park. On the contrary, America should be proud of Hyde Park.”

Here’s the rest at the link:

Uncommon Ground

Michelle Obama

Michelle ObamaThese are almost two weeks old now, but at last I am taking some time to post them. The hard-working and well-connected Laura Hussein got us into another wonderful small event where we were able to listen to and meet my biggest heroine in these days, Michelle Obama. She was all that.

What do I like about her? I think I identify with her both as my neighbour, and as a woman of my generation who has faced, and continues to face the same kind of balancing act of children, partner, career and family that I and all my friends struggle with. She is so natural. I’m sure there is a private side to her that we don’t see, but she came in front of, her Chicago peeps, with no makeup on but a little lipstick and her hair knotted up in a ponytail. I love that. I’m sure time spent *not* primping is more time spent with her girls. And of course she was stunning anyway.

Michelle and BrookeThe speech she gave was the one you’ve all heard, about her background and Barack’s, and how they “get it,” but there was a new note of graciousness and generosity added in, a tone that said “first lady.” Barack’s opponents were never mentioned by name, and only alluded to in the vaguest way. There was also lots of talk about how this is not about Barack, about how this is a whole movement of people who are longing for change in so many different areas.

When she was done, she came along the rope line and spoke to every single person who wanted a word with her, including us. “We’re Lab School mothers,” my friends said, and her face lit up.

I worry about her. The sacrifice she and her daughters are making is incredible, and she is making it willingly, but I worry that she will become (or continue to be) a target, the same way that Hillary was by people who prefer to distort a caricature than to get to know the real woman. I hope she knows that the women in Hyde Park know the real Michelle, the one who is always the gym display at her kids’ school and the ballet recital, and that we’ll always have her back.

New Used Books

My books, let me show you them (click for a bigger view). This weekend was the annual used book sale in my neighbourhood, and I scored big. Every single one of these books for…$36.
I do feel a bit guilty whenever I buy used books because I know the author isn’t benefitting from my purchase. But I look at it this way: I buy all kinds of books at this sale cheap, on a whim, and this introduces me to new authors I would never explore otherwise. An author I read in a used book one year may become an author I buy new in hardcover the next.
Besides, the vast majority of what I buy looks like it has been read once, if at all. By providing a secondary market for people who don’t like to keep the books they buy once they have read them (I do not understand these people, but anyway), I help free up all kinds of shelf space for them to buy new books. My hunch is that the more people reading books from any source — a shiny bookstore, a used book sale, or the library — the more authors will benefit in the end.

Daisy Delogu, Theorizing the Ideal Sovereign

Theorizing the Ideal SovereignIt was an exciting day at writing group.  One of our members, the lovely and talented Daisy Delogu brought her new book, Theorizing the Medieval Sovereign: The Rise of French Vernacular Biography (University of Toronto Press, 2008) for us to admire hot off the press.
I’ve been part of this writing group for the past four years or so. We read each other’s academic writing and get together as often as we can over to discuss our work and chat about life over a meal. The other members were also the first audience for my novel, and it was their enthusiasm alone after I gave them the first half that pushed me to finish the book. We have all read every word of Daisy’s book in different drafts, and it was tremendously exciting to see it finally in print.