Review: At Wit's End

At Wit's EndAt Wit's End by Erma Bombeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At Wit's End / 0449211843

As a child, I picked up several of Erma Bombeck's books at a used bookstore and read them again and again. Picking up At Wit's End was like returning to the home of an old friend where everything is comforting and familiar, and you can laugh at old jokes together. I was delighted to see that this kindle edition retains the artwork from the paper version, all of which I remembered with fondness.

Most of the essays here are still very very funny. There are times when Erma dips more deeply into sentiment for me than I want from my humor books--the deep sorrow she feels as time passes and her children age hits too close to home and I read those parts very quickly to get through them--but obviously this comes down to personal taste. There's an undercurrent here that I didn't remember from childhood of, hmm, holding men to lower standards than I'm comfortable in my current feminist life, which just shows how far we've come (yay) but made me profoundly sorry to Erma for some of the stuff she felt she had to put up with (boo). If buying this for a young person, expect to have to explain a LOT about the outdated language, the setting, and the culture it was coming from.

I'm happy to have this in my collection, but it's hard to say if I'd ever read it again. Maybe I might just pull it out from time to time to give my 'old friend' a hug.

~ Ana Mardoll

Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 6

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 6: Black Girls Matter

I'm going to start Episode 6. This is the last episode and I'm dreading it. I know there's no happy ending here. The wisdom in switching to legal-age girls for control and domination is that technically, none of it is illegal. Or, rather, the illegality is hard to prove without witnesses willing to cooperate against him. He abuses them with spankings, group sex, bathroom control, fasting, and other methods of abuse--but all those things are legal to do to a consenting adult. The problem here is that even if the girls are consenting, they've been groomed to accept abuse.

He does have guards and people willing to watch the girls for him, but every person who has tried to leave so far has not been physically blocked, at least as far as I can tell from the documentary. The blocks have been emotional and financial. [Note: This is later shown to be wrong.] I don't know how you fix this, shy of putting his butt in prison for the illegal stuff in his past. Assuming double jeopardy and the statue of limitations don't protect him--and they well might. Oof. That has made these episodes increasingly hard to watch. It hurts to see someone groomed to accept abuse and to feel helpless to stop the abuse or get the victim out.

Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 5

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 5: All The Missing Girls

I'm going to start Episode 5 and we'll see how far we get before I need to take a break. Episode 5 is called "All The Missing Girls" and that's an ominous title that worries the shit out of me.

"Our daughter Azriel Clary has been with R. Kelly about three years now."

"My daughter Dominique has been in his life for-- off and on for nine years." Oh shit.

Screen text: "Dominique Gardner met R. Kelly at age 17." He's 52 years old. If this was nine years ago, then he was 43 when she was 17? That's... I don't have words. "Michelle hasn't seen her daughter Dominique in almost a year."

Jerhonda: "I would be isolated [in R. Kelly's house]. I felt like a prisoner. I didn't have anyone to talk to. It was just me. The breaking point for me was when Rob slapped me and he choked me until I blacked out." Screen text: "Jerhonda turned over all evidence of abuse (including her diary) to the Illinois Bureau of Investigation."

Open Thread: Reflected Sunlight


Because windows are not flat and therefore reflections make shapes that approximate x-ishness to various degrees, or something like that.

How visible this is depends on the angle of secondary computer's monitor, which is probably not a good sign.  Still, if I don't use something as the picture, this won't even be on the right day.

-

We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Into the Spiderverse
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 4

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 4: The People vs. R. Kelly

Here we go on Episode 4. Take a moment to mute this hashtag in your settings if you need to. Big trigger warning for child sexual assault, R. Kelly, the works. I've been dreading all day coming home to watch this. It's not easy, but I think it's important. These survivors were so brave to come out here and tell their truth. They deserve to be witnessed.

The screen text opens with the "R. Kelly has denied" boiler plate and honestly if that was deliberate shade on the part of the documentary folks then well done because at this stage it provokes an actual visceral rage response. Like, "Oh, he denies the stuff that was on tape? The stuff that went on in an illegal marriage that was annulled? The stuff alleged in the zillions of lawsuits he settled? SURE, WHY NOT, WHAT EVER ARE WORDS."

Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 3

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 3: Sex Tape Scandal

I'm using the "#AnaWatchesSRK" tag so that people can mute me without having to mute the entire #SurvivingRKelly tag and/or all [TW: SA] instances. This is a live-watch with direct quotes from the material, much of which is EXTREMELY explicit and triggering, so please exercise caution.

Episode 3 starts out with the same text: "R. Kelly has denied all claims relating to sexual assault, domestic violence / abuse, and sexual misconduct with minors." The longer this series goes on, the more outrageous that denial seems.

Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 2

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 2: Hiding In Plain Sight

Alright, tonight I'm watching #SurvivingRKelly Episode 2. Reminder that you can buy the series on Amazon Video, or you can get a 7-day free Hulu "live TV" trial and stream it that way. Mute in your settings "[TW: SA]" to avoid seeing this thread on your timeline.

Episode 2 opens with the same text: "R. Kelly has denied all claims relating to sexual assault, domestic violence / abuse, and sexual misconduct with minors."

Surviving R. Kelly: Episode 1

[Content Note: Child Sexual Assault]

Surviving R. Kelly. Episode 1: The Pied Piper of R&B

I'm going to live-tweet the watch, but I don't want to spam the #SurvivingRKelly hash with each tweet because that seems like I could end up talking over people on the hash. I don't actually have very much experience with the artist; the only song of his that I own came with the MAGIC MIKE XXL soundtrack ("Cookie") which I didn't know came as part of the album until after I'd bought it.

I *do* have about a billion Lady Gaga songs and I'm super disappointed that she has refused to speak out about this, especially after (a) working with him and (b) using sexual assault survivors in her Oscar performance. The Lady Gaga thing REALLY upsets me. This isn't 'just' someone who has been in the same room with him or had glancing contact; she has made rape activism part-and-parcel of her platform. If someone tries to make themselves one of the recognizable faces of rape activism in the music industry and then just 'no comment' disappears when Black girls are at stake? That hurts a lot. I have already been around the mulberry bush with Lady Gaga stans, so if you're new here (a) I've always been a big fan of hers, (b) I own a zillion of her songs and sing them all the time in the car, (c) I'm a rape survivor too. I know about triggers.

S1:E1 opens with the words "R. Kelly has denied all claims relating to sexual assault, domestic violence / abuse, and sexual misconduct with minors."

Fat Acceptance: Dumplin

[Dumplin Spoilers]


Okay, I cannot concentrate on any of my work while DUMPLIN exists, so here we go. (I haven't read the book, so all I know about it is the previews, please don't give me ANY information at all, nothing, no thing, thank you.)

Open Thread: Sunset over Water


Um, in my defense, I had completely forgotten that I posted a picture of a sunset back on the solstice.  And I definitely had no idea that it was taken from more or less the same place pointed in almost exactly the same direction.  (This picture was taken on January 2nd.)

Lonespark reminded me to post the open thread because it was getting on in the day and I hadn't.  I quickly picked this picture as the one I would use.  And then . . . I spent something in the vicinity of two hours and twenty minutes trying to get the sky to show up as the color its supposed to be without turning the land into an indistinct black mass.

That's bad for people who wanted to post in an open thread and didn't have one yet, but it's actually kind of a good thing for me.  I used to get a lot of joy out of working with images on computer, so getting caught up in it again is potentially a good sign.

-

We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Into the Spiderverse
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Prairie Fires: Chapter 6

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Child Abuse]

Friends, it has been a whole year and now it is time for me to re-read Prairie Fires.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 6

Chapter 6! We're now in Part 2 of Laura's life.

"Over the coming years, [Laura] would step by cautious step seize control of their circumstances. She would prove adept not merely at penny-pinching but at finding ingenious ways to generate income, husband their minuscule resources, and protect their assets."

If you recall, when we last left off Laura and Almanzo are leaving De Smet in defeat and headed to the Ozarks while the larger country around them struggles with depression. I do think it's interesting that Laura will take a journey from being the younger spouse who leaves financial decisions to her husband to being the one holding the financial reins in the relationship. She's significantly more frugal than Almanzo, which he probably realized by this point in their marriage, and he must also have felt very much like a failure after repeatedly blowing all their money on farming ventures that didn't work out.

Transcending Flesh: Pronouns and Others

Note: This was previously published on my Patreon.

a pink and blue sky with a radio tower

This essay is one in a series which focuses on writing gender in science fiction and fantasy settings that provide body modification options beyond our current level of technology. Note that you can download this collection of essays from my website here.

---

Transcending Flesh:
Gender and Body Diversity in Futuristic and Fantastical Settings


Essay #7: Pronouns and Others

You're in a coffee shop mentally narrating your surroundings one day and want to note that the customer in front of you smiled when you came into the shop. How do you pronoun at this situation?

You might try to work around pronouns by using nouns and adjectives. "The customer at the front of the line smiled" or "The tall redhead smiled" or "An apparition in what appeared to be chainmail armor smiled" are all apt descriptions of the person. Or you might default to a neutral "they/them" pronoun set: "They smiled". As a third option, you might look to their gender presentation and make a tentative guess at pronouns from the stranger's appearance--with the understand that your guess may be wrong.

Gender is a cultural construct and thus both gender and gender presentation vary across societies. Gender presentation can include how we wear our hair (lengths and styles are often used to present gender) or our bodies (for example, whether breasts are bound or presented with emphasis). Gender presentation can include what decorations we place on our bodies: hats, tattoos, piercings, jewelry, and clothing. Clothing in particular can be gendered through color, cut, material, and a thousand other indicators.

It is important to understand that gender presentation is not gender. A person wearing a pink dress and possessing a rocking rack, unicorn tattoos, and a Farrah Fawcett hairstyle may be a man. A person wearing blue coveralls and presenting a Brian Blessed beard, a skull tattoo, and a shaved head may be a woman. Gender presentation is not gender, which is why it's increasingly understood to be most polite to ask which gender and pronouns one should use for a person (and to normalize the conveyance of pronouns through worn items like name-tags which include pronoun information).

In the absence of name-tags and an ability to ask (perhaps because you and this stranger are fleeing an alien invasion together and you don't have time or breath to stop and talk), how do you pronoun the person in your head? If you don't apply neutral pronouns to them, then you probably tentatively pronoun them by looking at their gender presentation and hoping their pronouns "match". You make a guess based on the information you have available, and go with that guess until you receive new information to the contrary.

This is important because there will be cases where a first-person narrator or limited third-person narrator will interact with a person whose pronouns they do not know. In those cases, it may not make sense for the narrative voice to know that the trans person in front of them goes by "xie/xer" instead of the "she/her" that the narrator might assume from their gender presentation. This can lead to "accidental misgendering" in your narrative where a character does not know the other person's pronouns.

Accidental misgendering can happen in good faith and doesn't make the narrator a "bad person". It can harm trans readers who have triggers around misgendering, so do warn for it in the content notes for the material, but it is important to note that even common triggers are not necessarily "bad" topics about which you cannot write. I would just urge that you write with care around this particular topic!

Consider why you're writing a scene in which a narrator misgenders a character. Is this necessary to your story? Can you find another way to frame the scene? Can the character in question correct the narrator quickly? Can they convey their appropriate pronouns in their introduction, so that correct pronouns are used throughout? If the narrator doesn't speak with them and instead observes them from afar, can the narrator overhear their pronouns, or be already aware of them because a friend has told them or (in the case of a spy thriller!) they know of the person from publicly-available research they've previously done?

I must strongly stress that trans people's genders and pronouns should not be framed as a "plot twist" or a "surprise". It is okay for a narrator to not know someone's pronouns, and for those pronouns to come out later when the character feels safe making them known to the narrator, but the story should work equally well if those pronouns had been known by the reader from the beginning. Trans people are not plot twists.


~Pronouns and Magitech~

How do pronouns play into a fictional setting where people can have "mix-and-match" bodies that look however they want? Something you will need to consider as the author is how gender presentation works in a society where people can change their bodies easily. Do people still assume that visible breasts on a chest means "she/her"? Would that really be a sensible thing to assume? We're trying to get away from assuming that now, and we don't even have magitech that allows people to put on and take off breasts at a whim.

Maybe your society employs pronoun name-tags so that people don't have to guess when they meet strangers. Maybe everyone has high-tech glasses and earpieces that take in the faces of those around the user and feed back important information into the user's ear. ("Kelpyr Corcane. Star Merchant, Second Class. Suspected Pirate, though never proven. Nee/ner pronouns.") Maybe society has normalized stating pronouns upon introduction. ("Princess Thea Starguide, she of Colluscent, delighted to meet you.")

Authors should understand that when they show characters interacting, they are also showing us the societal expectations of their setting.

Example A: Assuming Pronouns From Appearance

Let us consider James meeting a stranger for the first time: James smiled as Jared approached him with a beautiful woman on his arm, her grin dazzling even at this distance.

Here we see James assume the gender of this stranger. What is he basing that assumption on? Unless it is made clear that she has signaled her gender in some way (perhaps by wearing pronouns on a tag, or by indicating gender through a socially-known marker like a special accessory) then we assume James is using bodily appearance to guide him. If James is representative of his culture, then the world-building has now established that--despite the magitech ability to radically alter bodies at will!--there is still enough adherence to a bodily type such that James feels it's safe to guess that people with that type use "she/her" pronouns.

This world-building undermines the entire magitech premise! We already understand, in our society, that it is impossible to accurately guess gender from body configuration. This will only be more understood in a society wherein people can change their body configuration at a whim in order to test-drive a penis or a shiny new pair of breasts. In a world where everyone can experiment with body shape to their heart's content, it doesn't make sense to guess gender from body configuration. You might as well guess gender based on hair color, as you'll have equally poor odds of success!

Example B: Using Neutral Pronouns Until Informed Otherwise

Now let's try another approach: James smiled as Jared approached with a beautiful stranger on his arm, their grin dazzling even at this distance.

In this version of events, James is careful not to gender the stranger. He uses neutral "they/them" pronouns until he learns the right ones, either through signaling from Jared ("James, this is Melody. She is my accountant and an excellent flamenco dancer."), or by asking outright upon introduction ("James Carlisle, he/him, professional panda-wrangler. You are?").

By normalizing a direct offer-and-ask of pronouns, we see a culture wherein it is widely understood that gender presentation is not the same thing as gender. Without saying a word about magitech, the author has reinforced that this society is different from ours in that bodily appearances are not considered to be static indicators of gender. The directness of the ask also implies that James will accept whatever answer is given, indicating a culture where trans people are safe giving their pronouns to strangers.

Now let's talk about some pronoun corner-cases you may have to grapple with as an author.


~Deliberate Misgendering~

I spoke above about "accidental misgendering" and how it can happen in good faith. When a character is corrected, they should accept the correction and use the appropriate pronouns from there onward.

"Deliberate misgendering" is when a person knows the correct pronouns to use but deliberately uses wrong pronouns anyway because they don't accept the person's gender. Deliberate misgendering is an act of violence! It is okay to have violent characters in your fiction, but the author must recognize they are violent.

For example, if you have a character who is a man who uses "he/him" pronouns, and he has told his family that but they continue to call him "she/her", then that family is not loving. They are engaging in abuse against this character by trying to assert their will over him in an attempt to change his gender.

I would strongly recommend not including deliberate misgendering in your work if you are a cis author. It can be misused as "easy" violence against trans characters, and can be wielded in ways which may hurt the reader. Consider developing a villain who is villainous for reasons other than bigotry.


~Pronoun Shifts~

Some characters (such as genderfuid characters who experience gender shifts over time) have pronouns which change over the course of the narrative. Let us consider Jordan, who is sometimes "he/him" and sometimes "she/her".

One way to handle this is for the narrator to ask Jordan how they should refer to Jordan when they do not know Jordan's current gender. Jordan may ask that the narrator use a neutral "they/them" for times when the narrator isn't sure of Jordan's gender. ("I don't know where Jordan is. Can you reach them on their cellphone at all?")

Another option might be that Jordan prefers people stick with a pronoun set until they're directly informed of a change. In that case, the narrator would use Jordan's last known pronouns when discussing Jordan with others. ("I spoke with Jordon yesterday and he said he was angry with Matt, so I expect he still is." The last "he" in that sentence assumes that Jordan is still a "he" until told otherwise.)

Asking how to respectfully pronoun a person isn't hard or rude. It is perfectly okay to write a scene wherein the narrator asks Jordan how to use pronouns! Asking about pronouns should be normalized, and no different from scenes in which narrators ask about names, nicknames, name meanings, and so forth.


~Pronouns in Flashbacks~

What about cases where the person's pronoun doesn't shift regularly, but has changed in the time since the narrative voice saw them last? Once again, asking is the best choice here. ("Laen, when I tell stories about our childhood should I use your pronouns, or do you prefer me to use the ones we used at the time?")

In general, people should use the current correct pronouns for any and all stories about a person, whether or not those stories occurred in the past when the person was going by different pronouns. The reason for this is that many trans people feel their childhood pronouns were wrong all along. Some bigoted cis people persist in using those wrong pronouns as a means of asserting power in an attempt to define a trans person's gender and childhood against their wishes.

Having said all that, please note that trans people are not a monolith and some trans people do use "old" pronouns and "old" genders when recounting stories of their past. ("When I was a little girl...") Be aware that there are multiple ways for trans people to tell our stories. It is always best to ask the individual person what pronouns you should use for them when talking about their past.

"That's all well and good," I hear you say, "but I'm writing fictional trans characters. Whatever answer they give me when I 'ask' is an answer I came up with as their creator. So what should I do?" My answer is that if you are a cis author, do not change pronouns for trans characters when telling a story of their past. That switch can create the impression that you think trans people "change" gender when they transition, or that trans people who don't transition aren't allowed their correct pronouns. If Brian is "Brian" and "he/him" in the present day narrative, then he should be "Brian" and "he/him" in flashbacks as well.

Writings: The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin (Part 4)

Previously posted on my Patreon.


---

"Princess Merinn, I am Wyrus. We--myself, and these men and women with me--are here to see you restored to your rightful place on the Ravelin throne."

January Newsletter (2019)

I've been sick most of December, which means I haven't been able to get much content produced: I can't make Let's Plays when I'm coughing every few seconds and I'm not able to write when I'm sleeping eighteen hours out of the day. Frustrating and upsetting, but I'm trying to make peace with this just being a thing that happens every year. My immune system is very poor and there are a lot of germs flying around so it is what it is.

On the plus side, I have a lot of sweet kittens to cuddle me and keep me warm on these cold nights. Everyone has made a full recovery from their earlier illnesses and the babies are all active and playful and happy. I'm especially pleased that they all play with each other now and nobody is afraid of anybody else. Parenting win!

Here are some free things that you should definitely check out:

My Twitter account @DivorceKittens with stories and pictures is here.

My Magician's Nephew Deconstruction: New post here. Index to older posts here.

My Wrinkle in Time Deconstruction: New post here. Index to older posts here.

My re-read of Prairie Fires: Introduction. Chapter 1. Chapter 2. Chapter 3. Chapter 4. Chapter 5.

My YouTube series on Quest for Glory is here.

Second, some Patreon links stuff for subscribers:

$2+ The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin. Part 6 is going up today!

$5+ Transcending Flesh, another essay for discussion and questions!

$5+ eBook Download Links are here.

$15+ eBook and Audiobook Download Links are here.

$25+ Paper Book Reminder is here.

I still have a few bookmarks to send out, so if you haven't gotten yours make sure I have your address! It's not too late to get a late Christmas present. :) And if you're waiting on yours (and/or on books), thank you for being so patient with me. I don't have anyone I can send down to the post office except myself, so things grind to a halt when I'm sick. I'll send out the remaining mailers as soon as I possibly can.

In Closing

This year has had so many highs and lows. Two unexpected surgeries, both harder and more emotional than I'd expected. My husband leaving, even more unexpectedly. My beloved Quincey passing on. But you've all been here with me through thick and thin, and I have wonderful friends and beautiful kittens. I love you and I am so grateful for this life of mine. Thank you. ♥

Prairie Fires: Chapter 5

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Child Abuse]

Friends, it has been a whole year and now it is time for me to re-read Prairie Fires.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 5

Who is up for another Chapter? Shit is about to start going wrong. Or, wronger. Chapter 5.

When we last left Laura, she'd just married Almanzo and was certain that everything was going to be fine forever. He was the town hero, he came from a rich family, and everything was looking up. What Laura didn't know was that their new house was *heavily* in debt and Almanzo's sweet impulsive nature of spending money on presents for her as soon as he gets any will be a problem of epic proportions.

"By the time she was eighteen, Laura Ingalls had walked away from at least a dozen homes". The house Almanzo built for her was meant to be permanent, their forever-home, and she loved every detail. The first year, everything is basically lovely. Almanzo buys two ponies and teaches Laura to ride. They race every morning before breakfast. "“It was a carefree, happy time[,] for two people thoroughly in sympathy can do pretty much as they like,” she wrote. It was the closest she ever came to saying they were in love."

Open Thread: Sky and Tree


First off, sorry that this is late.  Mea culpa (which is Latin for "My bad.")  I've been having a rough time depression-wise lately, which has been translating into a rough time hydration and sleep wise, and everything sort of falls apart.

Second, I still haven't figured out how to take pictures of Sunsets with a Canon PowerShot.  My previous camera, which was more or less the Samsung equivalent, had a sunset mode.  Somewhat surprisingly, all things considered, the sunset mode worked really well.

To get the picture above looking the way it does I had to play with the curves in gimp.  Otherwise it would look really washed out.

-

We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Into the Spiderverse
   ● Ant-Man and The Wasp
   ● Solo (A Star Wars Story)

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Prairie Fires: Chapter 4

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Child Abuse]

Friends, it has been a whole year and now it is time for me to re-read Prairie Fires.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 4

As a reminder, we're going through Laura's real life first before we tackle the fictionalization of her life. Laura is 13 and going west. "The Great Dakota Boom was on. California and Oregon each had had their land rush; so had Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado. [...] Boosters called it the “sole remaining section of paradise in the western world.""

Much of the land belongs to indigenous people, but white folks are readily ignoring that. "But white prospectors impoverished by the economic crisis of 1873 began sneaking illegally into the Black Hills the following year". Laura's extended family included in that group of shitty white people. "One of these gold diggers was Caroline Ingalls’s little brother, Tom Quiner. In violation of the Sioux treaty, he penetrated the region in 1874 with a group of miners, the “Gordon Party”...But the gold rush they incited sparked the Black Hills War of 1876", leading up to the famous Battle of the Little Big Horn.

There were also the locusts to consider; they were regularly keeping the area completely devoid of any plant life, to the point where army horses were starving from lack of grass to eat.

Prairie Fires: Chapter 3

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Child Abuse]

Friends, it has been a whole year and now it is time for me to re-read Prairie Fires.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 3

1874. Laura is 7 years old and they're driving to Minnesota. He buys a book of poems for Laura and Fraser pauses to note how Charles (being a younger son) was better educated than the older brothers who would've been needed in the fields as soon as possible. That's another interesting intersection of thought when talking about rugged individualism: Charles received a better education because his brothers were required for labor. By time he came along, the need wasn't as great and he could take a few years of schooling. So even within the same family we see a disparity of resources, rather than some kind of "blank slate" of equal opportunity.

Charles files preemption on Plum Creek. If I'm reading correctly, the land had been Dakota land until they'd been driven off 12 years before. Pa builds a dugout house for them which is essentially a hole in the ground--the roof is woven branches with sod encouraged to grow over them. "But they were also damp and dirty. Dugouts were prone to flooding in the spring, and despite fabric hung overhead, or whitewash or newspapers slapped up as makeshift wallpaper, soil and spiders drifted down upon the occupants."

Prairie Fires: Chapter 2

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Child Abuse]

Friends, it has been a whole year and now it is time for me to re-read Prairie Fires.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 starts off with a bang: "Laura lived within the log walls of the Pepin cabin barely more than a year before Charles Ingalls entered into a dizzying series of financial maneuvers."

"He sold the property in April of 1868 for the astonishing sum of $1,012.50, receiving $100 in cash and a promissory note for the rest. At the same time, Henry Quiner sold his eighty acres to the same farmer, a Swede named Gustaf Gustafson." Henry and Charles had gone in together on that 160 acres for $335, and apparently sold the place a year later for $2,000? That's an amazing profit in a very short time.

Whoops, sorry, factual error: they bought the land FIVE years prior. The "one year" is from Laura's birth. Still.

Prairie Fires: Chapter 1

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Child Abuse]

Friends, it has been a whole year and now it is time for me to re-read Prairie Fires.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 1

Chapter 1 starts out at Maiden Rock and Lake Pepin, which Laura would later call "legend-haunted". Fraser notes that the stories, "like everything else", belonged to the Dakota people. I do appreciate that she keeps drawing the reader back to what is stolen. Whites stole the land, but also the stories. And Laura's own stories, while not exactly 'stolen', will later enrich her without helping the people and places she left behind.

"Charles’s childhood coincided with America’s first great depression, the Panic of 1837...Horace Greeley made the first of his famous entreaties to pull up stakes: “Fly, scatter through the country, go to the Great West, anything rather than remain here.” Charles Ingalls' family was poor and when even worse poverty struck during the 1837 depression, they moved out west to Illinois. By 1853 they were moving again, this time to Wisconsin--where Charles would meet Caroline.

Back |