Gloria Steinem’s “My Life on the Road”

I finished Gloria Steinem’s book “My Life on the Road” from the NYPL earlier this week and have purchased a copy to own so that I may underline, dog-ear and highlight for reference with abandon. Rather than lump it in with my May booklist, I wanted to share my thoughts now.

I wish I’d read it sooner, because part way through her book, came this quote:

“One of the saddest things I hear as I travel is “I don’t know enough to be a feminist.” Or even “I’m not smart enough to be a feminist.” It breaks my heart.”

That could’ve been me saying that to her. I wish I’d been more secure in my place as a feminist in this world. I was afraid of looking stupid or, worse, jeopardizing my career when I was so young, supporting myself and had no family to fall back on. I accomplished many things in spite of my upbringing and lack of formal education that fly in the face of the white male system –becoming an Assistant Vice President of a bank at age 25 collecting on $1M+loans to name a few– and yet I still doubted myself because I didn’t go to college or know enough about the history of feminism. Instead of rabble rousing, I learned to play golf. No, really. I did. I shot par for a hot minute.

After reading this book, I see that I knew a lot more than I realized. I highly recommend it. While you might expect it to be a memoir, it’s instead a very interesting crash course in the women’s lib movement of the 70s, the Deaf President Now protests at Gallaudet in the late 80s, the plight of Native Americans, how the US Constitution is modeled on the Iroquois Confederacy and so much more.

I’m going through some sort of seismic shift in my frame of mind thanks to cancer and politics and mid-life. I wonder what positive and lasting contributions or change I can make. What rabble rousing is there for me to do when almost 100% of my time is devoted to QED? But in the question is my answer: QED is the change and contribution I made. I built the space for comedy and art, of course, but also to have a platform for events like the recent Bystander Intervention training, Planned Parenthood fundraisers, election coverage, etc. Perhaps QED can be my little feminist flag planted in this great big world. Maybe there is more TBD.

I feel like there is more to do and this book poured gas on my feminist pilot light. The flame that has been at a slow burn just got turned up.

So, yeah, this is a must read for my book reading friends. I’ll even carry it at QED to recommend and hand sell to anyone who browses the shelves.

Other quotes that I bookmarked:

“When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.”

“Voting isn’t the most we can do, but it is the least.”

“In truth, we don’t know which of our acts in the present will shape the future. But we have to behave as if everything we do matters. Because it might.”

“If you do anything people care about, people will take care of you.”

#Kambri2018Booklist

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February 2018 Reading List

My February Booklist is complete with nine books!
I’m not really good at quickly reviewing books. I enjoy and trust Amazon and GoodReads.com reviews for that. This is really more for myself. And with that, FEBRUARY books listed in the order that I read them.
1) A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite (Memoir) – I heard about this book via The Astoria Bookshop and a local bookclub who needed a space to meet and FaceTime with the author. They used QED for the meeting so I overheard a lot of the discussion and was intrigued. The events are set in Portland, ME and Astoria, NY –the author and her now ex-husband opened a restaurant near my apartment that I’ve eaten at, in fact. So it felt a little gossipy and salacious to hear about how she found out he was cheating on her just a few weeks after she gave birth, but not overly so. I enjoyed it and was fascinated by the psychopath / sociopath exploration since I’m pretty sure My Jailed Deaf Dad is one or the other or some combination. It was a quick and easy read which I finished in one day.
2) White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg (Non-Fiction) – Not so quick and easy at almost 500 pages of dense history, I felt like I was trudging through it a few times. But it’s an interesting exploration of race and class in the USA. Toward the end as the author approached modern times, I felt like it rushed over things. Given today’s #BLM movement* and the issues of race and class disparity being at the forefront lately, it’s worth a read even if it’s a bit heavy.
3) I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman (ESSAY COLLECTION) and Wallflower at the Orgy, (ARTICLE COLLECTION) by Nora Ephron – I got on a Nora Ephron kick. She’s funny and inspiring and both books are arranged in bite-sized chunks so they’re easy to pick up. For this reason, I read the former title for a 2nd time. The latter was a collection of articles and interviews she’d published some decades earlier but I found them to be very interesting and not dated at all, particularly the Mike Nichols interview which I later looked up to transcribe and share with my husband. I followed up the books by watching the HBO documentary Everything is Copy and Ephron’s 1996 commencement speech at Wellesley College. It’s particularly relevant and timely with the #MeToo movement.*  Please watch it.
5) Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (Self Help) – I’m not sure how this got on my list–I think it was recommended by my library app because of another book. It was the only thing available at the library on my wishlist when I finished my Ephron binge, so I figured what the heck. It’s self-help with some god stuff thrown in. It’s not too heavy on the religion so I kept with it and felt like I got something out of it. It is as the title suggests about being present in the moment and not sweating over being perfect with Pinterest or Insta-worthy homes, clothes, moments…just be. It’s repetitive the way a lot of self help books are which makes it a fast read. The author has a lake house, speaking gigs that take her around the country (world?) and a jet setter life, so I’m guessing the average person won’t be able to relate to some of her examples. For me, her family seems really close and lovely which really made me sad since I definitely don’t have that and never will. But I treated it like a seminar that I was signed up for by my bank: as long as I leave having learned one thing it will be worth it. And it was.
6) Kingdom Come by Jane Jensen (Fiction – Mystery) – I’ve been getting back into mysteries in the last few years and have started to venture out to other authors. This one was recommended by my library. It was set in Amish country in rural PA. I used to live near and visit the area a lot back in Ohio, so the bucolic setting and familiar characters had me hooked right away. The romance was a little icky/schmaltzy but not a big part of the overall story so I was still interested and thought it was decent enough to read her follow up.
7) In the Land of Milk and Honey by Jane Jensen (Fiction – Mystery) – By the same author as #6. Also set in Amish country and, I dunno, I’m glad I read both but I probably won’t read more of her stuff. Again she inserted a romance that was awkward and, in this case, completely unbelievable (Briefly: As a detective works on a mass murder serial killer case, some guy on the case that she doesn’t even know puts pressure on her to ditch her main squeeze and run away with him. What?! So bizarre and uncomfortable.) Also, she uses metaphors like “shaking like a leaf on a tree” and “floating like shit in a toilet” (not joking) and so I think I’m done with this series.
8) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Memoir) – A classic for a reason. Don’t know why I never read before now. Really glad I did. It sure made me uncomfortable at times, for the right reasons.
9) Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Historical Fiction) – Set in Brooklyn during WWII, it follows a Rosie the Riveter type with a little bit of a mystery thrown in. I loved it.

*Hmmm…sensing a trend here that everything old is new again. Sigh.

TO READ
Queued up or on hold at the library in no particular order for MARCH are the books below. Some of these I’ve had on hold for a super long time. Others I just came across as recommended to me because I had read such and such. I like to rotate the genre so that I’m reading something super highbrow and educational, a memoir, mystery or some sort of fiction and, on occasion, a silly comedy or self help book.
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
American Lion by Jon Meacham
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
The Cyanide Canary by Robert Dugoni
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Washington by Ron Chernow
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Stronger by Jeff Bauman
Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor
You Don’t Look Your Age by Sheila Nevins
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
#Kambri2018Booklist

January 2018 Reading List

Now that Mom is gone and radiation is done, I’m back to my books! Oh, books, how I’ve missed thee!

As a treat for myself, –’cause I love to organize my books, ya know– I’m going to try to chronicle my books for 2018. If I do it, then maybe I can piece together my 2017 reading list from my library history.

My January Booklist is in the bag with six great books that gave me pleasure and/or inspiration. They were:

1) Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (NON-FICTION) – Started this in December but then my loan expired and I had to get on the waitlist for it. Grr. A really straightforward discussion about end-of-life care for the elderly and those with terminal illnesses. I’ve told many people over the years about the documentary “How to Die in Oregon” which centers around assisted suicide. It’s a beautiful and moving film. I remain baffled at how Oregon remains the only US state with legal assisted suicide. Anyway, this book only *briefly* touches on assisted suicide and is all about assisted *living. How can we improve the quality of life for people who are at the end of life? The doctor talks very frankly about death and dying in ways I’ve grown used to during this whole sickness saga. There is no cure-all solution offered. We’re all gonna die eventually so, sometimes rather than following the lead of pharmaceutical and healthcare system to “fight” a disease at all costs (both literal and figurative) for futile cases, families and doctors can learn how to better manage the quality of life with the knowledge that the definition of “quality” is different for each of us. I learned a lot from this, so thanks to whomever here on FB recommended it to me. I can’t remember!

2) Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg (FICTION) – My sister-in-law posted something about this some time ago. I hadn’t heard of it or Flagg, or so I thought. Duh! That’s the woman who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes! AND she was on Match Game. Get outta town. So I checked it out. It was cute, grabbed my attention right away, and I thought it was gonna get a little preachy when it started talking Bible stuff but, not only did it not, it had some twists and turns that were just…what?! I did NOT see that coming. I enjoyed it (and LOVE Fried Green Tomatoes enough that I put Flagg’s book The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion on hold to enjoy in spring or summer maybe.

3) The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (MEMOIR) – I’d never heard of her before she was on SNL. I actually didn’t see the episode but wondered how I hadn’t heard of her given the pretty big platform of SNL. I should get with the program. So when I saw her book while browsing my library app, I snagged it. Oh my god, she is *ridiculous* and I loved it. Jaw dropping, head shaking and guffawing mixed with some “Mmm hmmm!” and “Preach it!” Holy smokes she had it rough growing up, too. So throw in a few “Bless your hearts”. I’m also gonna grab a copy or two to sell at QED. Funny, honest and bold.

4) Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham (NON-FICTION) – Only two chapters in and I’m already, “What the heck are you doing with your life?!” ETA: Sigh. I love him. I found myself getting choked up as the end neared and then full on sobbed after his death, his funeral, etc. What an incredibly brilliant and beautiful man. Ahhh, why did he have to be a slave owner and have children with one of his slaves? Fuck. I spent time afterward, reading up on his views on religion and his book, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” (a book literally ripped from the pages of the Bible. All the good stuff that Jesus taught minus all the myth and magic) and found out it’s currently on display at the Smithsonian until mid-June. I hope to see it before it’s put away again.

5) Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar (SELF HELP) – a slim little gem recommended by my friend Lauren that I finished in a jiffy. I am going to go through it again, this time doing the little exercises throughout. I generally already know or subscribe to many of his concepts, but it was nice to hear them again. Especially now after my cancer bout has me feeling down and asking the Universe, “What is the point?” I just looked it up to confirm his name and see that it was published in 2007 and there is now a book of his called Even Happier. Maybe I’ll check that out instead of re-reading this one.

6) Stinker Lets Loose! by Mike Sacks (FICTION / HUMOR) – The concept — the novelization of a long lost 70s trucker genre comedy film– is comedy gold and goddamned brilliant. It captures that weird window of time when movies like Smoky and the Bandit and Every Which Way but Loose were big hits. It’s so unpoliticially correct and delightfully ridiculous. I’m jealous I didn’t think of this and am so excited to see all the buzz Mike is getting via the live reads and such. It’s absurd and smart all at once and has so many tiny, perfect, rich details that reading it is like mining for comedy diamonds.

#Kambri2018Booklist

North Platte’s Town Hall Event

Big thanks to the folks of North Platte, Nebraska for inviting me to speak at their Town Hall Lecture Series. Past speakers have included some very big names including my inspiration, the lovely Jeannette Walls, author of THE GLASS CASTLE.

My sister-in-law drove all the way from Missouri to meet up and brought my nieces along for the trip. It was great learning how to loom rubber band bracelets, teaching them how to make things with Bucky Balls, touring Buffalo Bill’s ranch and, generally, just seeing their pretty faces. The girls were mostly happy about my hotel pool and seeing their cousins while I’m pretty stoked about my bull horn turned beer bong necklace.

BUT…the reason I was in town was to give a speech about my life turned memoir and what BURN DOWN THE GROUND means in the literal and figurative sense. There were about 400 people in the lovely Neville Center, including students from the special high school for “troubled” kids. I had no idea they were going to be there but was overjoyed when I found out they were. I hope my story and message about choices and reinvention resonated with at least ONE of them.

Huge thanks to Keppler Speakers and the amazing ladies of North Platte. Who knows if our paths will ever cross again but I will carry the experience with me forever and always.

Deaf Book Club Skype Call

Rock House LibraryI’m at the Rock House and had a Skype call with a book club in Minnesota comprised of deaf women and mental health professionals working in the Deaf community. The whole thing took place in ASL.

Man, I love technology and so wish this convenience had been around for my parents and grandparents. How wonderful to simply click a button on my laptop and be visually connected with no need for a special service or interpreter.

We had a nice chat about my book, family, the Deaf community, and mental health issues before signing off so I could make a trip to the dump and walk with Griswold around the lake.

While they’re busy reading books to help them in their important (thankless?) careers as therapists and DV counselors, I’m busy reading, too. I read THE BEDWETTER by Sarah Silverman (enjoyed it) and just finished Tina Fey‘s BOSSYPANTS (really enjoyed it). Tonight I’m starting Sara Barron‘s latest book THE HARM IN ASKING then it’s GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR by Rachel Dratch.

I’m highbrow, what can I say?

It’s GREAT!

My super talented, sweet, funny and dynamo friend and fellow memoirist Sara Benincasa is now a YA author with the publication of GREAT, a contemporary retelling of THE GREAT GATSBY. I was so excited not only to see her back in NYC but to introduce my protege Jeaniah to Sara and a few other friends at the book launch party. Sara read from her novel then signed books as the crowd chit-chatted and ate cake that was designed to look like her book. Clever and yummy and a lovely night.

My friends are all comedians, actors, writers and artists so they’re not stiff grown ups and immediately treated Jeaniah like a long lost friend. Here’s the conversation we had as we walked away from the party:

Me: My friends are fun, right?
J: Yeah and funny! I like being part of the conversation.
Me: Yeah, nothing beats a good conversation with friends.
J: I like how the conversation keeps going…like, I make a comment and then they make one and that makes you think of one and then I comment and it goes on and on.

Thanks to my awesome friends for having a lot to say & being so funny and charming while they do it. She really enjoyed meeting you all & we got some good advice about the upcoming state math tests.

And, of course, huge congratulations and continued success to Sara who has more books & TV show pilots coming down the pike than I can shake a stick at.

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Make Life Happen

Don’t ya just love when the Universe sends a clear message? I’ve been pretty lazy about a few projects and haven’t been able (wanted?) to focus on them even though they get me excited simply talking about them. These horses have got legs, some of them are even saddled up, I’m just not hopping on and taking the reins for whatever reason(s).

Then I got an email from a reader asking me if it was okay for her to use a line from my memoir as a tattoo (see pic). I’ve shared part of that email below with her permission:

I wrote to you about a year ago after I read your book for the second time. I had told you about a passage in your book that struck me.

“Events in my life just seemed to happen to me. Now, however, I wanted to make life happen.”

You responded telling me about how you made lists and started making things work for you, having the universe respond. And again…it struck me.

I have that passage written down and look at it daily. It’s on the wall at work. It’s a note in my phone. I even have it written on a post it note I keep in my wallet just in case I need that reminder. I have held that phrase, that power, with me since I first read it.

… It’s become the way I try to live my life and it’s something I want to carry with me, literally, forever…

In any sense, I appreciate your words and your kindness and I genuinely appreciate you for helping me to change my life.

How nice, right? I replied to her that, of course, she could use the line. Her email came at the perfect time to remind me that I have to hop on the saddle and take the reins.

She inspired me to live by my own words:

Make life happen.

~Kambri
Giddy up!

To Read & Watch

I’ve had the book Far From the Tree on my wish list since it was published late last year. His inclusion of deafness and Deaf culture sparked my interest. In his book, “Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.

Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.”

He spent a decade on this project and that intensive research is reflected in the book’s length, a whopping 976 pages. That’s partly why I haven’t read it yet, as I have a full Kindle & bookshelf. But after watching Mr. Solomon’s incredible Ted Talk, Far From the Tree is now next on my reading list. Watch his speech here:

Fall Dates

I’ve had a whirlwind tour for my book Burn Down the Ground. My last out-of-state event in Cleveland for the regional conference of the National Black Deaf Advocates was amazing, but I’m happy to take all of August off to recharge. Dates booked for this fall are below and details are on my calendar. If you want me at your event or store –especially if it coordinates with dates already booked below– email me at kambricrews@Gmail.com

September
17 – NYC for Bare! at the PIT
19 – NYC for That’s What She Said at Public Assembly
26 – NYC for the How I Learned series at Happy Ending Lounge

October
13  – Portland, OR – Wordstock Book Festival
13 – Cannon Beach, OR – Cannon Beach Library
18 – Winstead, CT – North Connecticut Community College (Free & ASL interpreted)
20 – Cincinnati, OH – Books by the Bank Book Festival
23 – Lansing, MI – Schuler Books
24 & 25 – Grand Rapids, MI – Grand Rapids Community College (Free & ASL interpreted)
27 – Texas Book Festival (Free & ASL interpreted)
29 – Montgomery, TX – Montgomery Middle School
30 – Conroe, TX – Hauke Alternative School

November
1 – Austin, TX – Book Woman book store (Free & ASL interpreted)
7 – Washington, DC – Bare! at Black Fox Lounge
10 – Madison, WI – Wisconsin Book Festival
14 – New York, NY – Administration for Children’s Services

January 2013
17 – 20 – Jefferson, TX – Girlfriend Weekend – Pulpwood Queens Book Club