Mothering Feed

My life as an attachment parent: feminists should have understood but mostly didn't

The New York Times has a mothering discussion centered around the question, "Has women’s obsession with being the perfect mother destroyed feminism?"


I read this exchange and it feels to me like it comes from a different planet than the one I have parented on. I am, in the vocabulary of this discussion, an attachment parent. I never found myself to be part of the kind of cultural hegemony implied by the NYT discussion. (Though, for a while I seemed to be the person the BBC Radio called to speak about public breast feeding.) Rather, I went about the matter of parenting my children while pursuing my career in science fiction, such as it is, without much feeling of being part of any larger movement.

The strain for me was not a tension between motherhood and career, but rather the lack of support for the idea that with a little extra help from those around me I could remain a full participant in the intellectual and cultural life around me. I would get all the way to the convention, but in the end often couldn't get the support to allow me to attend any program items except those where I was a panelist.

This experience has left me deeply disappointed in the science fiction field's brand of feminism which should have understood what my parenting choices represented, but mostly didn't. Gradually, I stopped showing up at events like World Fantasy Con and ICFA because I could no longer ignore the professional disrespect this state of affairs implied.

Yesterday, received an evaluation from the school district of one of my children who has substantial learning disabilities which contained a sentence that makes me very proud. The evaluator remarked that my son seems to have a positive sense of self “rooted in close and supportive parental relationships.” And that is what I was trying to do. 

Kate Eltham, baby Elizabeth, & Kathryn Camer

I do not demand of other people that they do nearly all of their business travel in the company of children, or that they breastfeed while giving speeches, signing books, speak on panels, like I did. But in my life there would have been a lot less conflict between motherhood and career if there had been a little more recognition of the project of combining the two.

The idea articulated in the NYT that by doing what I did I have somehow been a threat to feminism makes me want to kick their editors in a particularly sensitive spot in the ankle.

Making a quilt for my daughter: a meditation

quilt for Elizabeth

When we were first sewing pieces together for the smallest block, I told her, "Never sew the pieces together unless you know what they mean."

She asked, "What do these pieces mean, mommy?"

I said, "These are angry men running in the grass. This one is the moon rising over the lake. This one is our house. This one is about thinking about the tiny little creatures in the water."

This is not a quilt make from a pattern, but from a method of construction. This is a method to be done fast, in love, in anger, and as a form of meditation: Use only scraps, as much as you can. Cutting from the big pieces of cloth should be a last resort. Make small blocks as though you were spelling words, combining letters. Then make bigger blocks as through you were making sentences.

quilt for Elizabeth

The bigger blocks will not all be the same size. The easy way out would be to trim them so that they are and then sash them with a plain fabric to spread them out so they don't have to mean together. Don't take the easy way out. 

Arrange the pieces on the floor in relation to one another. If some are too simple, cut them apart and sew them back together in a different order. Add strips of fabric to fill in the gaps, but using the same grammar that you have used so far.

Work fast, but observe things like seam allowances carefully. Because this kind of quilt is made in the heat of the moment, it is prone to structural flaws.  Overwork the structure just a little to make sure it will all hang together in the end.

quilt for Elizabeth

I did have to reach for the larger pieces for the outside edges, and needed a trip to the fabric store in Lake Placid, NY to get the batting and the backing.

Also, I did a small amount of applique using some of the better scraps -- 20 years ago I had experimented with hand-cutting rubber stamps and then printing on fabric with fabric paint.

quilt for Elizabeth

I am going to tie the quilt, rather than hand-quilting. Elizabeth and I discussed it last night, and she wants the binding to be sunshine yellow like the backing.

It will be a gift for her seventh birthday.

Vinson on ironing board

A clarification for K. Tempest Bradford & Jane Carnall, et. al.

I have discussed in public that my civil rights and those of my children have been violated and that these violations have to do with clashes of parenting beliefs and parenting practices, and I have discussed such civil rights violations in terms of oppression since they involved the use of state power and physical force by the state. 

Jane Carnall and Tempest Bradford and a bunch of their Internet friends seem to think that the appropriate response to this is public ridicule. 

While such blog posts may make Jane and Tempest popular within a certain Internet clique, such posts undercut their claims to be feminists and their claims to be advocates of anti-oppressive practices.

Oppression, Feminism, & Motherhood

I was on several excellent panels at Anticipation which I hope to write about later, and on one panel that was hopelessly ill-construed. It was a panel on which four white people were assigned the task of discussing whether ethnic and sexual minorities ought to write for the mainstream sf audience or whether they could or should write for more specialized audiences more connected to their concerns, and if they were to do that, how would they make it into the SF canon (this last point was illustrated by a quote from Joanna Russ.).

One of the designated panelists did not attend the convention, one overslept and missed the panel by accident, so it was me and this white guy who later remarked online that he has clearly been assigned to the wrong panel. 

This was not THE most socially awkward panel assignment I've ever been given. That would be the panel entitled "Politics & Bad Manners" at a Minnicon many years ago, where as I recall one of my fellow panelists was dressed in a monk's habit, and everyone but me had known in advance that this was the annual Libertarian revival panel. I  spent the panel defending things like the existence of public sidewalks. But this pannel at Anticipation was certainly up there.

Several audience members seemed to have a lot to say on the actual topic assigned, so I invited "Ide Cyan" and a woman whose name badge said "Isobel" to join me as panelists. "Isobel" declined, but made many productive comments from the audience. "Ide Cyan" joined me on the panel, but only after anxiously showing me her name badge so I would know who I was tangling with. She tried hard as a panelist, but also was extremely tense and trembling and talking very fast, as though frightened of me. (I think that is the first time I've ever been on a panel with someone who appeared physically frighten of me.)

The panel went how it went, which is as well as could be expected given both the panelist problem and an oddly constructed mandate. (Canonicty is a completely separate issue from the economic and artistic viability of subgenres with specialized audiences.) I'm told that Jo Walton had written beautiful and lucid panel descriptions that were then mercilessly pruned by a clumsy editorial hand. I think this panel description was one of the victims.

"Ide Cyan" argued that the central issue was oppression. I attempted to get her to unpack her argument, and asked interview style questions about what she meant by oppression. Another blogger has described her as becoming "tongue-tied" when presented with this line of inquiry.

After the panel, I invited her to join me for a cup of tea for further discussion, but she declined; she and a group of other audience members, who seemed to be a portion of Fail Fandom, left as a group. According to their blogs this group went off and discussed how appalling it is that I claim to be oppressed because I am a parent and because of where I live.

Before departing, "Ide Cyan" instructed me to read Joanna Russ's book What Are We Fighting For? Sex, Race, Class, and the Future of Feminism, a book which as it happened was sitting on my night table. A while back I blogged my dismay with the opening chapter. It is a book that Joanna worked long and hard on, the book in which she intended to reconcile socialism and feminism, and which was published too late to have the impact it might have had because it took her so long to write. (Our collective recollection is that she was already working on that book when I attended the Seattle Clarion in 1984; its copyright date is 1998.)

Joanna Russ was my first science fiction mentor. She was my professor at the University of Washington for two years. I spent many happy hours taking up her office hours when everyone else was scared to talk to her. A few decades ago, I knew her pretty well. She was in chronic pain. She was on heavy-duty anti-depressants that messed up her short-term memory in ways that were sometimes comical. She is also a genius, and I treasure the time I spent sitting at her feet (sometimes literally) listening to her hold forth.

That having been said, I don't think What We Are Fighting For? works in the way she intended. In trying to reconcile socialism & feminism, she has for the most part left out the problem of motherhood and the relationship between the parent and the State. Her discussion of motherhood is extremely slight. The most extensive passage I was able to find, via index and skimming, is a mother-blaming section on the role of families in perpetuating oppression and sexism. (p. 347) Clearly, something had to go or this book never would have got finished, but I think it is unfortunate that the oppression of mothers by the State was omitted from discussion.

So what is oppression? Its definition is not one of Joanna's central concerns in this book; she is writing for an audience that thinks it already knows what oppression is. Oppression is depression — "a feeling of being oppressed"; persecution —"the act of subjugating by cruelty";  and subjugation — "the state of being kept down by unjust use of force or authority." In my daily life, I have experienced all three in connection with being a mother and it is not a minor thing. It is a major force in my life.

I seriously doubt that Joanna Russ I know would argue that I and other American mothers are not oppressed. And I wonder by what right self-described feminists discard out-of-hand claims by individual mothers that they suffer oppression.

Is 21st century feminism really feminism at all? If it has abandonded mothers as such, it has abandoned its task of advocating the liberation of women. 

A response to Christopher Elliott's "Should kids be banned from first class?"

Angel As the opening to an article entitled, "Should kids be banned from first class?" Christopher Elliott (writing for Tribune Media Services) begins by explaining that drugging his toddler worked out badly the time he and his wife got a first class upgrade.

I think I'll begin by saying that I don't think I've ever actually ridden first class on a plane, though I was once given a business class upgrade on a flight to Japan. The larger seat was uncomfortable as it seemed to be constructed for a large man, rather than someone of my proportions.

Elliott's article contains such amazing passages as:

One of the most persuasive arguments for limiting first class to adults is that the premium cabin is essentially an adult product. Which is to say, it's difficult for a youngster to appreciate a wine list or a gourmet meal. It's just no place for kids. Plus, it's pricey -- even if you're using miles to upgrade.

Flying these days is such an ordeal that I avoid it whenever possible. On a recent trip to California, it couldn't be avoided since we were traveling coast to coast. My first question when my husband booked the tickets was "They're going to feed us, right?" He replied that the tickets seemed to suggest they were giving us dinner. After many delays, the plane finally left the gate and the kids and I instantly fell asleep and missed the food service. Afterwards, my husband told me that we were lucky; that the food had been some awful plastic cheese enchilada thing that he regretted having eaten. 

When we finally made it to our hotel at 3AM (6AM NY time), my 6 year-old daughter said "But we haven't had dinner yet." I said, "Go to sleep. It's almost breakfast time."

It seems to me that the issue is not whether children who fly are worthy of "a gourmet meal," but rather that they are entitled (like to rest of us) to eat and to be provided with edible food. Also, all passengers behave better when fed adequately on a regular schedule.

Airlines may market first class tickets as a luxury product, but 21st century flying on commerical flights is not luxurious. Eliot partakes of this marketing kool aid:

Like a five-star restaurant or a luxury resort, the first-class cabin is not particularly welcoming to young fliers. Or, for that matter, their parents.

Elliot, you're being had! First of all, the rich have children, too, and five-star restaurants and luxury resorts can be quite welcoming indeed to families with children. But more importantly, the privilege you are being sold when you buy into a first class ticket is a ride that only slightly less resembles a ride in a greyhound bus -- PLUS it comes with a really hefty sense of entitlement, something which costs the airline nothing.

Flying these days is a pretty degrading experience no matter how much you paid for your ticket. Some people pay for an upgraded ticket in order to be less degraded. Scapegoating children and their parents for the need for this extra expense seems to me foolish.

(Image swiped from the Retired Greyhound Trust.)

manufactroversy: a word I've been needing

From Leah Ceccarelli at Science Progress:
Manufactroversy (măn’yə-făk’-trə-vûr’sē) 
N., pl. -sies. 
1. A manufactured controversy that is motivated by profit or extreme ideology to intentionally create public confusion about an issue that is not in dispute. 
2. Effort is often accompanied by imagined conspiracy theory and major marketing dollars involving fraud, deception and polemic rhetoric.

I first encountered this in the Wikipedia entry for Artificial controversy:

An artificial controversy, or variously a contrived controversyengineered controversyfabricated controversymanufactured controversy, or manufactroversy is a controversy that does not stem from genuine difference of opinion. The controversy is typically developed by an interest group, such as a political party[1] or a marketing company, to attract media attention,[2] or to facilitate framing of a particular issue. Creating controversy is also a controversial legal tactic used to gain advantage in a negotiation or trial.[3] The controversy may stem from a minor incident blown out of proportion,[4] from a false claim of controversy where no serious dispute existed,[5] or no reasonable doubt remains,[6] or unintentionally from misinterpreting data.[7]

Writing on the politics of cancer and the influence of special interest groups on the public policy debate, Dr. Robert N. Proctorhistory of science professor at Stanford University specializing in scientific controversy and the cultural production of ignorance,[8] which he calls agnotology,[9] described the use of artificial controversy: "The relation between knowledge and ignorance in these matters is complex....The problem is partly that ignorance can be manufactured, controversy can be engineered."[10] In a 2006 interview regarding public perceptions of the press in the United States, journalist Carl Bernstein lamented, "Well, let's take a look at what we're talking about: misinformation, disinformation, celebrity stuff—gossip, sensationalism and especially manufactured controversy.... Increasingly, sensationalism, gossip, manufactured controversy have become our agenda instead of the best obtainable version of the truth. We've become frivolous."[11]  . . .

Writer Valerie Tarico, referred to Prof. Leah Ceccarelli's writings on "teach the controversy" as a manufactroversy.[35]

The Tarico reference is her article from The Huffington Post, Ben Stein: Front Man for Creationism's Manufactroversy, concerning the movie Expelled.

University of Washington professor, Leah Ceccarelli has pointed out that their "teach the controversy" strategy depends on a very specific sleight of hand: blurring the difference between scientific controversy and manufactured controversy or Manufactroversy.

You can say you first heard it here, well, if you haven't heard it already on MySpace or Facebook: Manufactroversy -- a made up word for a made up controversy. 

Reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable


I realized with some sheepishness, after writing about Bruce Sterling's story "The Black Swan," that I had only read second-hand accounts of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Black Swan idea, but not his actual book of that title. So I ordered it, and now have read the book itself. A "black swan" as defined by Taleb, is an event of "rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability." Taleb is an ex-quant turned iconoclastic mathematician. This book was a bestseller, and like many best-sellers on arcane topics, it is chatty, opinionated, and a bit on the loose and sloppy side.

As I expected, I enjoyed the book a lot. His subject matter appeals both to my taste in mathematics and my aesthetic of fiction. (My favorite section of David Hartwell's The Dark Descent is The Fabulous Formless Darkenss, which is the section for what he and I call "nature of reality" horror -- stories in which the parameters of what one thought was possible usually change for the worse.)

Other than having it confirm my belief system (always a pleasure), there were two basic things I got out of reading this. 

As I told my husband (David Hartwell) while reading the book, for me this is partly a book about how David's way of doing things is right. The way David publishes books as an editor, the way he runs our small press, the way he collects books, the way he runs the family finances, etc. all tend to limit downside risks while at the same time leaving him exposed to positive Black Swans -- serendipity. (Aren't I a good wife for blogging about how I just read a book that tells me how right my husband is?)


In the second half of the book Taleb spends a lot of wordage and emotion on condemning the "intellectual fraud" of the Bell Curve. I don't really need to be able to judge whether he is correct in terms of all of his examples. But it set me thinking about standardized testing.

Last week and this week, the school district is doing extensive testing of my son, which they do every three years. (This is separate from the group standardized testing.) When my husband I meet with the district in June, we will be presented with a sheaf of paper in which, page after page, our son will be raked in terms of percentiles and numbers of standard deviations from the norm. And we will try to make sense of all this data. Again.

Years ago, I read Stephen J. Gould's The Mismeasure of Man (another book which confirmed my belief systems) and I have a deep distrust of standardized testing anyway. And yet these tests mean something, and it is of crucial importance that I understand what. In past cycles of this, I've wasted a lot of time reading up on what is meant by "processing speed" and how to understand things like the results on subtests of IQ tests. 

My son tends to produce an anomalous pattern of results on such tests, and so far no one has yet to be able to explain what this actually means, though -- who knows -- this year's tests may be different. (We expect to be having our independent expert read the results for us this time.)

So I'm reading along through Taleb's attack on the uses of the Bell Curve, and I realize that of course all of these tests are normed to Bell Curves. They wouldn't give them if they weren't. But all around me I see human attributes that do not fit that model: the ability to draw a recognizable portrait, the ability to play the piano, gender, eye color, etc. Many human differences are not meaningfully normalized to the Bell Curve.

 And so I realized there was one further aspect of what these tests measure that I need to keep in mind: that the imposition of percentiles and standard deviations on what attributes are measured may be no more realistic than contemplating a spherical cow. We somehow need to try to consider whatever we're told each of these these tests are measuring is distributed Bell-Curve-like over the population, or whether it is a different kind of thing. I find this a bit daunting, though probably worth trying.

I seem to have been prophetic: The Madlyn Primoff "Incident"

The other day, I wrote a meditation on Lenore Skenazy's Free Range Kids in which I compared the plight of American mothers to what it must have been like to live in East Germany. I said:

It seems to me that the object of control of all this anxiety is not children, but rather their parents, specifically their mothers. And what Skenazy describes is a three-decades-long process of de-liberating their mothers by insisting that anyone too young to get a driver's license needs direct adult supervision at all times. Further, though Skenazy tries to deal with this cheerfully, there is a kind of police-state-like enforcement of this de-liberation which reminds me of what it might have been like to live in a place like the German Democratic Republic (except that you don't get shot): every one is watching you and anyone can report you to either the authorities or the media at any time. Something innocent can bring Child Protective Services or a Nancy Grace to your door at any moment.

People can and do call the cops on their neighbors for allowing a 9-year-old to leave the yard, and in this day-and-age the police take this seriously. Off-handed and inaccurate statements by children can be used to incriminate the parents. If anything about you makes the parents of your kids' playdates nervous, beware. Someone may make an example of you.

. . . and went on to say . . .

Skenazy is tough and brave and I wish she lived in my neighborhood, but she does not offer much of a solution for the problem of overzealous adults: For American mothers today, to quote Jean Paul Sartre's No Exit, L'enfer, c'est les autres (Hell is other people).

This morning, I happened to look at my blog's Sitemeter before heading off to a Church sale, and I noticed that for some reason that this post had suddenly attracted a huge amount of traffic, though I couldn't tell why.

Now I know what's up. I went over to Skenazy's blog and read about what the Wall Street Journal is calling . . . [drum roll, please] . . . "The Madlyn Primoff Incident." 

From the WSJ:

Madlyn Primoff, a 45-year-old mother of 10- and 12-year-old daughters, couldn’t take their squabbling anymore as she drove them on Sunday through a commercial part of White Plains, N.Y., in suburban Westchester County. She ordered them out of the car and drove off. The 12-year-old somehow managed to catch up with Ms. Primoff and get back in, but the 10-year-old, lost and frightened, was found by someone on the street and taken to the police. Ms. Primoff, who had called her town’s police to report her daughter as missing, was directed to the White Plains police, who arrested her on a charge of child endangerment. She has pleaded not guilty.

(John Edwards III, writing for the WSJ, even compared her to Skenazy!)

I seem to have been prophetic. Primoff's parenting transgression, about ten miles from my house, which should have been something for her family, Child Protective Services, and a therapist or three to hash out, has become the Bad Mommy Perfect Media-storm. She's suddenly being treated like the next Andrea Yates over something that is basically none of our business.

Not only did her family's difficult afternoon make the Wall Street Journal, it made The New York Times, ABC, the TimesOnline, USA Today, Fox News (God help her!), MSNBC, etc. And the ever-classy Lower Hudson Journal, managed to weave Primoff's story into an article entitled, "Police: Cortlandt mom used daughter, 12, to shoplift." 

The press ran around with TV cameras, and got her neighbors to condemn her, published her mug shot world-wide, and have in essence branded her a Mama bin Laden: a mother terrorist.

And some of the bloggers are , if anything, worse. I found one guy, with a fetish for child abuse stories,  who posted her address and  a Google map showing how to get to her house. He also published the name of her employer, her office address, and the names of some of the law firm's clients. (A sick man, if you ask me.)

Listen people, the Baader-Meinhof gang used to have to rob a bank and hold the guards hostage to get this kind of coverage. This is a private matter which should be reolved privately, and is none of our business.

See also Romi Lassally at The Huffington Post, Lenore Skenazy, Aylette Waldman, and Jezebel.

Reading Lenore Skenazy's Free Range Kids

Free-range-cover13 I pre-ordered Lenore Skanazy's book Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedon We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry in January and when the book was released this month, it came in the mail.

Skenazy was dubbed "America's Worst Mom" after she wrote about letting her 9-year-old ride the New York City subways by himself. Her writing style is cheerful and entertaining, but what she's writing about is, to me at least, a scary subject: the near-total loss of autonomy by American children over the past 30 years. While I never rode the New York City subways until I was an adult, when I was nine, in 1971, I rode the Munich subways by myself, and so did other kids. And my habits of independence continued once I returned to the US (though Seattle had no subways for me to ride).

America is now gripped with terrible anxiety about what will happen to kids if they are not constantly under the watchful eye of a parent or some paid professional. And, as Lenore Skenazy points out, the crime statistics do not bear out the claim that this is a more dangerous era. It is not. We only behave as though it is. Skenazy discusses the issue of balancing children's freedom and safety and aims to empower parents to give their children the kind of freedom they themselves enjoyed as children.

I read her book immediately after reading a book about genocide, Ponary Diary 1941-1943: A Bysrander's Account of Mass Murder by Kazimierez Sakowicz  -- see my post, Reading Kazimierz Sakowicz -- an odd juxtaposition, to say the least. Sakowicz's eyewitness account describes the brutal murders of many children and infants. And indeed, other than natural disasters and epidemics, the main cause of large-scale deaths of children is military, political, religious, or ethnic violence. So first I read a book about genocide and then about how relatively safe children are if we let them out of our sight.

This raised, for me, an interesting question. What is all this anxiety about that Skenazy describes? Is it just a function of our fear-driven media and Americans' very shaky command of statistics? Is it a function of litigation-mad parents? Did women trade in their children's freedom for their own? Or is it a function of the rise of the suburbs and car culture? Is everyone expecting a burned turf divorce? Is this the war of the super-mothers? Where does the anxiety come from? 

It seems to me that the object of control of all this anxiety is not children, but rather their parents, specifically their mothers. And what Skenazy describes is a three-decades-long process of de-liberating their mothers by insisting that anyone too young to get a driver's license needs direct adult supervision at all times. Further, though Skenazy tries to deal with this cheerfully, there is a kind of police-state-like enforcement of this de-liberation which reminds me of what it might have been like to live in a place like the German Democratic Republic (except that you don't get shot): every one is watching you and anyone can report you to either the authorities or the media at any time. Something innocent can bring Child Protective Services or a Nancy Grace to your door at any moment.

People can and do call the cops on their neighbors for allowing a 9-year-old to leave the yard, and in this day-and-age the police take this seriously. Off-handed and inaccurate statements by children can be used to incriminate the parents. If anything about you makes the parents of your kids' playdates nervous, beware. Someone may make an example of you. (These days, you're not even supposed to let your cat outside!)

Why the de-liberation of both mother and child? Whose interest does it serve? Certainly not the children. It serves the interests of towns that don't want to pay for sidewalks. It serves the interests of rating-hungry media like CNN (known in this household as Child-abuse News Network). It serves the interests of cultural conservatives. It serves the interests of car makers if our kids have to be driven everywhere. It serves the interests of lawyers, especially divorce lawyers. It serves the interests of insurance companies. In short, there are many conflicting social forces at work.

I can easily follow her instructions for how to feel at ease letting my children have freedom. The hard part is other adults.  Skenazy titles her chapter 6 on the problem of overzealous adults "Ignore the Blamers." The hazards presented by overzealous are not just social disapproval of the other mothers of the playgroup. In upper middle class suburbia, the other mothers really do not need you, and so are capable  of terrible behavior towards you or your child if made even slightly socially uncomfortable. 

Skenazy is tough and brave and I wish she lived in my neighborhood, but she does not offer much of a solution for the problem of overzealous adults: For American mothers today, to quote Jean Paul Sartre's No Exit, L'enfer, c'est les autres (Hell is other people). 

What I've been reading lately

Cov0903lg-250 I've been bouncing from book to book and as is often the case with me I am reading several books. As usual, I am reading short stories, though I haven't really geared up for seriously plowing through the short fiction of 2009 yet.

Regarding fiction, I was most recently reading the March issue of F&SF: "Shadow-Below" by Robert Reed is terrific. Reed stories vary widely in technique, tone, and approach. Here's he's writing a Gene Wolfe-type story. Good stuff. "The Unstrung Zither" by Yoon Ha Lee is also really fine; I appreciate it for its mathematical/musical aesthetic logic. Getting to the ending is like reading a good proof. I've read half of Marc Laidlaw's "Quickstone" which is going well so far. In general, this seems a really strong issue of F&SF.

But mostly I've been reading non-fiction: either ordering books on impulse and then trying to remember why I bought them when they come in the mail a week later, or cooling my heels while David loots shops large used bookstores.

9780230218659 Today, I was reading Social Work: Themes, Issues, and Critical Debates (2nd edition), Robert Adams, Lena Dominelli, & Malcolm Payne, eds. I bought it for Mary Langan's essay "The Legacy of Radical Social Work," but have dipped in here and there reading individual essays.

Diffjacket Based on a comment section recommendation, I ordered Scott E. Page's The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Schools, Firms, Schools, and Societies. I've read the beginning, which was pretty good. Then he got into arguments concerning how problems that are hard from one perspective can be easy when translated into a different genre of though, and I found myself nodding, yeah, yeah, category theory and decided to put the book aside until I was willing to follow the actual mathematical and logical arguments closely, since in terms of the arguments that draw on category theory, he's preaching to the choir with me. Seems to be a good book, though not bedtime reading; I was reading it at bedtime. (He does discuss the extent to which ethnic and gender diversity are and are not what he's talking about.) Page is "a professor of Complex Systems, Political Science, and Economics." It is a rigorous book, which is good.

Bookcover The book I finished yesterday is Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace by Noa Davenport, Ruth Distler Schwartz, & Gail Pursell Elliott. It is a very useful book for anyone who has experienced mobbing. The writing is very utilitarian, and while it does pull the plow, one could wish for the prose style of someone like Oliver Sacks. 

Cover The book I was reading, with some fascination, on the way back from Westport this weekend is Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief by Bill Mason. I bought it in Lake Placid while waiting for David to finish going through the stock at With Pipe and Book. What is most interesting about the book is the point of view. Mason robbed celebrities, because they felt socially compelled to show of their jewels. He viewed the society pages as a catalog. And once he'd seen someone with what he called "serious stones" it became an idea fix: he couldn't stop thinking about the details of how he would take them. For lack of a better phrasing, Mason seems to be a man with tremendous discipline and almost no impulse control. To an extent, the jewel heists are things that happen to him rather than things he does. I'm about a third of the way through the book.

3124124AWXL._SL500_AA240_ Recently read: White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-Racism Training by Judith H. Katz. I have the 2nd edition. It is a quick read, a book rooted in the 12-step movement, conceiving of racism as a disease in need of treatment. By reputation, it is the book that coined the equation "racism = prejudice plus power." In the book, it's on page 53, almost an aside, an optional addition to dictionary definitions of racism. The failings of this book's approach are discussed in Mary Langan's  essay mentioned above. It tends to cause acrimonious confrontations.

There are several books I have in hand but have not yet started: 

Update 4/15/09: I finished Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief. Fun book.