Tag Archives: Adriana Paramo

My Mother’s Funeral, A Review by Robert Kostuck

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserMY MOTHER’S FUNERAL

by Adriana Páramo

CavanKerry Press, 2013, 258 pp., $21.00, ISBN 1-933880-39-2

A Review, by Robert Kostuck

In My Mother’s Funeral, Adriana Páramo slips between her mother Carmen’s life before children, her own childhood memories, and the present—wake, funeral, cremation. Woven into these personal experiences is an omnipresent Columbia: the open spaces of Mariquita, the squalid poverty of Medellín and Bogotá, rival drug gangs, politics, Catholicism, the Communist Party revisited.

Objectivity is difficult to achieve in a book-length essay; Ms. Páramo, however, succeeds admirably—she gently and firmly pieces together the tapestry of the mother and daughter relationship; readers will find common themes presented in even-handed and sometimes startling prose. Her writing is educational without being didactic; emotional without being sentimental.

Politics in Colombia were harsh in the 1950s. Her rarely-seen father, ‘Mr. B’, a cachiporro (liberal), seduces the innocent Carmen, and after the wedding rushes her away from her home—a few hours ahead of the godos (conservatives). First night together is spent in a whorehouse; for the remainder of the marriage Mr. B comes and goes as he pleases, impregnating Carmen and then vanishing for months or years at a time. At one point her sister Dalila acquires a partially-decomposed adult male human skeleton—courtesy of a ‘snatcher’, recommended by the nuns—and together sister and mother boil and clean the bones. Assembled, Dalila receives her coveted A+ in anatomy and the unnamed skeleton literally hangs around the house, a possible replacement for the missing Mr. B.

The baby of the family, Adriana curls up with her mother in the kitchen or in bed, listening to the stories of the world filtered through a tabletop radio: sports, agony aunties, soap operas, tangos, boleros; Carmen singing along with the radio, Adriana, watching her mother “morph into a woman”.

“Tal vez mañana puedas comprender / Que siempre fui sincera / Tal vez por alguien llegues a saber / Que todavia te quiero. Maybe later you might understand / That I was always sincere / Perhaps someone will help you see / That I still love you.”

Childhood for Adriana, is a combination of head-long curiosity and goofy naiveté. Carmen, and to a lesser extent, her sisters, guide and guard the young Adriana. Memory is selective; what Adriana shows us is how this mother shapes her daughters: strict, efficient, economical—she maintains a poor but tidy home and life for her children. Lessons by word or example are rarely repeated; they become the very fibers of her daughter’s body and personality. Toward the end of the memoir, Adriana writes,

“Our financial situation started to improve when we moved to Medellín, and Dalila, Amanda, and Ligia got secretarial jobs that required them to wear nylons, high heels, and modest suits. Eventually they began going back to school at night, but they never stopped working, never stopped rescuing Mom and their two younger sisters from the constant panic of uncertainty. I owe everything I am to the women in my family—to my sisters and Mom. Nobody else.”

This is the heart of the memoir: what a daughter learns from her mother: how to be a girl, how to become a woman; and when that mother begins to fade from autumn into winter, how to become her mother. When Carmen, beset by Alzheimer’s, visits Adriana the wife and mother at her new home in Alaska, she relates a story about her pregnancy with Adriana so at odds with the life lessons she’d imparted over the years that her daughter feels an urge to “. . . jump into the lake and sink slowly into its frigid waters.” The fantastic and heartbreaking revelation adds another thin, sharp layer to this complex mother and daughter relationship.

Returning to Colombia in torn jeans and a gypsy blouse, Adriana arrives at the wake, faces somber and seemingly more mature sisters and a brother. Funerals are holidays for the dead, a time when far-flung family reunite and wonder aloud what went right and what went wrong. Her sisters and brother are emotional but methodical—Adriana feels like the only one with an incomparable loss—the woman who as a child promised her mother that she would always remain her little girl. A few days stretches into a painful eternity, and when the siblings return home to divide Carmen’s possessions, Adriana is nostalgic, then practical:

“I imagine landing in Miami, trying to make it through customs with a fern, a plastic chair, a flyswatter, a river stone, and a broom, and I have to laugh at my childishness. I discard my mental list. Instead I take a pair of earrings that belonged to my grandmother, (. . .) a photo of the six women—my four sisters, Mom, and me—that my brother took the day I left Colombia; the locket with a photo of my daughter that Mom wore around her neck like an amulet. I also seize the printout of Mom’s last EKG, taken two days ago.

“(. . .) I don’t know this yet but in six years I will look at this EKG and realize that the ink is fading away and with it the only existing traces of Mom’s heartbeat. I’ll have it tattooed around my left bicep, much to my family’s dismay, so that her heartbeat and mine will always be together.”

My Mother’s Funeral is the literal translation of that EKG tattoo, spanning decades, continents, and lives; a heartbeat that remains long after we scan the final page and move on into the days to come.

Robert Kostuck, Writing For Peace Guest WriterRobert Kostuck graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Masters in Education. His published work appears in the Kenyon Review, Concho River Review, Zone 3, Tiferet: Literature, Art, and the Creative Spirit, Silk Road, and others.

Writing for Peace News

Onward Into 2014!

Last year brought growth and many exciting firsts for Writing For Peace. Here’s a brief overview of 2013:

In 2013 our Advisers continued to demonstrate a commitment to peace and the power of writing through their work, their inspirational blog posts, brilliant ideas such as Mary Carroll-Hackett’s educational Facebook page for young writers, MCH-What’s Going On? and Pilar Rodriguez Aranda’s efforts to reach Spanish speaking young writers by translating our 2014 contest guidelines. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Sam Hamill‘s new and revised translated collection of Chinese poetry, Crossing the Yellow River is being published by Tiger’s Bark Press. His Selected Poems (not yet titled) will be published by Lost Horse Press in September 2014.
  • Lorraine Currelley was selected as an Artist-in-Residence for the 2014 Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) and as a new member of the Pearls of Wisdom Storytellers. Her Poets Network & Exchange will publish their first poetry anthology in 2014.
  • Veronica Golos is working on a new book, Root Work: The Lost Writings of John Brown and Mary Day Brown. “Of course John Brown was a great abolitionist and so was his wife, Mary and she also had 13 children. I have Ghost Code poems and Runaway poems also in the book. This is a way to make history live again, to get inside it so to speak.”
  • Richard Krawiec supports a community of writers and activists through education and his ever expanding Jacar Press.
  •  Maija Rhee Devine spoke with young people in South Korea and the United States about her award-winning books, The Voices of Heaven and Long Walks on Short Days, her experiences as a young girl during the Korean War, and her work with Korean Comfort Women.
  • Dr. Margaret Flowers continues her peace and healthcare activism. She currently serves as Secretary of Health on the Green Shadow Cabinet. Her recent article, Major Social Transformation Is a Lot Closer Than You May Realize — How Do We Finish the Job?, is also co-written with Kevin Zeese, and published on AlterNet.
  • Adriana Paramo‘s new memoir, My Mother’s Funeral, explores the volatile relationship with her mother, and their love that defies cultural forces, Bogotá street violence, and Medellin drug lords.

This is just a sampling of the wonderful work all our advisers do. Please watch our blog for their posts, follow their work, and support the poets and authors whose writings and activism encourage a more thoughtful and peaceful world.

In 2014, we look forward to hearing from Board Member Andrea W. Doray, who recently returned from Nepal, and to continued growth – including the occasional review on our blog! On this first day of the New Year, we welcome guest writer, Robert Kostuck, who reviews Adriana Paramo’s memoir, My Mother’s Funeral.

Happy New Year, Writers for Peace! And thank you for your ongoing support!

 

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Weaponize My Panties. Please. by Adriana Paramo

Don’t Weaponize My Panties. Please.

by Adriana Paramo

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserI don’t know what disturbs me more: that India would consider fighting sexual violence against women by weaponizing their underwear or that the brains behind this device are not social scientists but three automobile engineering students who named this nugget SHE, Society Harnessing Equipment.

The three young undergraduates devised, and are about to commercially launch, a line of lingerie equipped with GPS, GSM capabilities and pressure sensors designed to deliver 3,800kV- shocks upon activation. The attacker gets up to 82 shocks and the GPS and GSM systems alert the police as well as the girl’s parents.

The concept, as innovative as it might be, saddens me beyond words. The SHE represents to me a declaration of surrender; it says that men are hopeless brutes incapable of learning the basics of mutual respect and common sense and because their feral lust and insatiable hunger for power over women wreak havoc in buses and public spaces alike, it is necessary to lace one’s panties with modules, wires and stun generators. Conversely, I believe the SHE is also a declaration of war against women’s sexuality. The designers of the anti-rape device haven’t been able to find a suitable material in which to pack their rather bulky invention. I cringe at the thought of these three kids working in a lab, stuffing their gadget into panties made of parachute material one day, and spacesuit stuff the next. A woman’s underwear is not a weapon or a shield, and definitely it’s nobody’s business; we like it soft and comfy; and whether it’s made of cotton, nylon, satin, silk or a concoction of synthetic fibers, how I cover my crotch is a decision devoid of social malaises, technological innovations and political agendas.

SHE is a technological response to a social crisis of global proportions. Sexual violence against women is rampant in India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, the United States, Botswana, Brazil, Peru, and sadly, many other countries. Rape is not a malfunctioning machine, it’s not a glitch in the system, or a Trojan malware threatening to steal my credit card details. SHE can’t be nor should it be used as a technological response to a social issue, just as bulletproof backpacks for schoolchildren are not a solution to the problem of the proliferation of weapons in the street.

For the record, I have never been raped, but this does not keep me from hurting when I read or hear about women being raped. That I haven’t been a victim of any form of sexual assault doesn’t make me less sympathetic, less worried about women’s safety, less keen on severely punishing those already found guilty of sexual assault; on the contrary, it makes me more determined to find viable solutions to this social calamity and I know that a gadget is not one of them.

I also know that opposing the weaponization of underwear, with calculated words and from the safety and comfort of my office, may seem trivial and worlds apart from the quotidian fear of the young women recently gang-raped in the United States, Brazil and India (New Delhi is the current rape capital of the world). Writing about “it” is not the same as living through “it.” Yet, as a writer of women’s issues, words are my only weapons and so I use them now to object to the placing of gizmos in women’s underwear as a deterrent to rape.

SHE is not a desperate measure or the last resort after an endless list of tried-and-failed solutions to India’s endemic sexual violence. Little has been done so far to identify the source, treat and uproot the problem. President Pranab Mukherjee has recently given his assent to the Anti-rape Bill which provides for life term and even death sentence for rape. That’s a start but it’s not enough. The ultimate goal should not be to punish the attacker but to reduce the number of and eventually eradicate all sexual assaults; a task that can only be accomplished through radical changes in the mindsets of both men and women.

  • Studies show that women are more likely to report sex crimes to female police officers and medical examiners. The recruitment of women in those two areas seems paramount.
  • In response to the recent gang-rapes in India, a legislator suggested to forbid skirts as a way to curtail sexual crimes. This notion that women bring rape on themselves by wearing provocative clothing is widespread and sadly not exclusive to Indian mentality. A woman deserves respect whether she walks down the street in a miniskirt and cowboy boots or under a black robe.
  • Hatred, like love, starts at home. Children raised in violent homes where wife-beating is the norm, are likely to perpetuate the cycle as adults. The acceptance of domestic violence, so rampant in many cultures and subcultures, emphasizes the roles of men and women as victimizer and victim.
  • A raped woman is perceived by some as “damaged goods,” and in India this translates into unmarriageable material. A girl’s prospects of marriage are more important than bringing her rapist to justice and for this very reason, she might be forced to compromise and either marry her rapist or drop the charges altogether; a conundrum that is increasingly leading rape victims in India to commit suicide.
  • The widespread belief that rape is about power and control desexualizes the assault. If the only motivation for a rape is the desire to dominate, humiliate and degrade the victims through the use of physical violence and intimidation, sexual gratification would not be a part of the equation, but it is, because without the sexual element the assault is not rape.

My main concern with this SHE gadget is that it changes the rules of the dialogue. It moves into the technical field that which belongs in the social realm. All of us, not just Indians, need to educate our boys and girls, re-educate our teenagers, campaign for violence-free homes, instill respect for women’s sexuality, and enforce a zero-tolerance law to punish sexual transgressors. My guess is that if a society channels its resources towards education, therefore, prevention, fewer shelters, support groups, crisis centers, hotlines and other social band-aids will be needed.

The other problem with gadgets is our tendency to refine and extrapolate their function. What comes after the weaponization of women’s panties? Bullet-firing bras à la Fembot? Pedophile-proof diapers? Tear-gas spitting mobile phones for our daughters? The sky is the limit.

Call me old fashioned, but I still believe in dialogue and respect. Call me a dreamer, but I have infinite faith in my male counterparts and their universal potential to be good men. Call me oblivious, but I refuse to weaponize my panties. So here’s my answer to the three Indian students: I know you have women’s best interests at heart. Thank you. However, I think your invention is misguided and rather than to uproot the problem, it deepens it. I think you are young and have the time and passion required to come up with viable solutions, but for the time being, leave our crotches alone. Please.

 About Adriana Paramo

Looking for Esperanza, by Adriana ParamoAdriana Paramo is a Colombian writer, born in cold Bogotá but raised in Medellín, The City of Eternal Spring. She is the author of “Looking for Esperanza,” published by Benu Press, winner of the 2011 Social Justice and Equity Award in Creative Nonfiction, and listed in the Top 10 Latino Books of 2012.

Learn more about Adriana Paramo and her work here.

Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace News

2014 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.

 

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales Call for Submissions

Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Help us reach out to schools and young writers by purchasing a copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart, by Adriana Paramo

Adriana Paramo,  Gobi Desert

The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart

by Adriana Paramo

Sixty million years ago, this part of the Gobi desert called  Bayanzag was the bottom of an Ancient Sea. The place is known as Flaming Cliffs and if anyone has ever heard of them it is because of the dinosaur skeletons and eggs that have been discovered there.

The Flaming Cliffs are not the Grand Canyon or the Badlands. They are quite unimpressive. Really. And if it wasn’t because the sunlight reflecting off the cliff walls makes the formations look more spectacular than they really are, you could drive by and miss them.

Yet, I love these two tiny words: Flame and Cliff.
Both so inherently dangerous.

Flame conjures up images of things set ablaze, things that burst into strident blasts of angry red and hues of passionate orange.

The word flame makes me think of my middle school years when girls used to remove the hair on their arms by passing a candle rapidly over them.  They burned the hair off their arms to make them caressable, to offer them naked and soft to boys with clumsy hands and sticky fingers.  They singed the fuzz on their arms out of love. So that they were welcomed and accepted and kept.

But only little girls do such silly things. When they grow up so does their pain, the caliber of their offerings, and their boldness. Some of them favor self-immolation over singeing. They offer themselves in sacrifice by setting their whole bodies ablaze.  They do it as a form of protest, of martyrdom, out of scorn. They sacrifice their flesh and bones in the name of love. Afghan women wishing to escape abusive marriages, Tibetan nuns protesting Chinese rule, Indian widows seeking eternal love throw themselves into their husbands’ funeral pyres.

Think heat, your skin peeling off, first crispy then waxy like a candle left out in the sun. Think pain, the fat of your body coloring the flames with traces of bleeding green and tender yellow, turning your midriff into a volcanic blow torch.

Flames. Kisses. Passion. That short-of-breathness, the giddiness of a torrid affair, the first love, the first kiss, the first time. Consuming flames that devour and destroy, leaving nothing behind but a mound of smoldering twigs.

Flames.

I once loved a boy who loved alcohol more than he loved me.
“Why do you drink so much?” I asked him one day.
“Because I like how it burns my throat,” he said. “It’s like a flame rushing down my windpipe all the way to my belly. You wouldn’t understand.”

I didn’t.

Cliff.  That’s the word that comes to my mind when I think of roller coasters, paragliding, bungee-jumping, sky-diving and gravity-defying stunts, a list that comprises my worst fears. I’m afraid of free-falls, of losing control, of letting myself go. I imagine how splendidly irrevocable the pull of gravity must be as one goes off a cliff.  The word cliff evokes memories of that last scene in the movie Thelma and Louise when the women are cornered by police only 100 yards from the edge of the Grand Canyon. They weigh out their options and rather than to be captured and spend the rest of their lives in jail they decide to keep going. Thelma steps on the accelerator and drives the 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible over the cliff.

I once loved a boy who loved his mother very much. On one Mother’s Day, after a weekend out in the country with pals and cheap booze, he drove to his mother’s house. He was too drunk and drove too fast. He missed a bend and his car flew off a cliff. It was a difficult rescue, the firefighters later said. The boy was tall and skinny; he wasn’t wearing a seat belt; the car catapulted his body into the air first, and later into the belly of the cliff.
The casket was sealed.
No one was allowed to see his mangled body.
A gaping abyss swallowed him whole.

 

“The Flaming Cliffs of One’s Heart” was reprinted with permission from Adriana Paramo’s blog, TWL. Travel, Write, Live.

 

Adriana Paramo, Writing for Peace AdviserAbout Adriana Paramo

Adviser Adriana Paramo is a Colombian writer and cultural anthropologist who, following research in Kuwait and the United States, advocates for immigrant women’s rights. She designed a tool to assess the quality of life of Indian servants living in Kuwaiti work camps, reflected in her CNF manuscript, “Desert Butterflies.” Her memoir, “My Mother’s Funeral,” set in Colombia, will soon be published by CavanKerry Press.  Learn more about Adriana Paramo here.

Looking for Esperanza, by Adriana ParamoAdriana Paramo wrote about her extensive work with Florida’s immigrant farming community in her book, “Looking for Esperanza,” the winner of the 2011 Benu Press Social Justice Award in Creative Nonfiction.

Looking for Esperanza: The Story of a Mother, a Child Lost, and Why They Matter to Us chronicles Paramo’s fieldwork and the anonymous voices of the women she encounters while looking for the mother in the story. It also yields the heartbreaking reality of life for these unvalued women who are treated, in Paramo’s words, “like meat scraps on the cutting board.”

Across Florida, in vegetable fields, citrus groves, ferneries, and packing houses, Paramo finds what she describes as “an underground subculture of hungry undocumented women, a hidden world of wage slaves, a microcosm of false names, false Social Security numbers, and false hopes.”

The book concludes with a collage of thoughts from various undocumented women, including one that captures the hopes that compel these women to make the choices they make: “I pray that my children remember me; I ask God they don’t forget that I left Mexico for their own good, so they could have a better life.”

Purchase the book on Amazon.com here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013DoveTales is now available for purchase!

We are excited to announce that the print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Occupied” 2013, are now available to purchase on our website here.

DoveTales is a full color journal, featuring poetry, essays, and fiction from our contest winners, established and emerging writers, as well as art and photography. Writing for Peace Artist-In-Residence Pd Lietz’s artwork is featured on the cover and throughout the journal.  We are grateful for the support of Colgate University Research Council, which provided a $500 grant as a partial underwriting of the initial publication of DoveTales.

In our first issue of DoveTales, writers and artists explored the many definitions of the “Occupied” theme in brilliant and unexpected ways. Contributors include: Chrissie Morris Brady, Andrea W. Doray, Kim Goldberg, Veronica Golos, Nancy Aidé González, Sam Hamill, Denny Hoffman, Michael Lee Johnson, Adam Jones, Ron Koppelberger, Pd Lietz, Paul Lindholt, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Ellen Meeropol, Mark A. Murphy, Tricia Orr, Kenneth Pobo, Linda Quennec, Nausheen Rajan, Shirani Rajapakse, April Salzano, Nizar Sartawi, Laura Solomon, John Stocks, Julie Stuckey, Samantha Peters Terrell, Richard Vargas. Contributor biography pages will appear on our website soon.

All proceeds for Writing for Peace publications and products go to support our mission, including future Young Writers Contests, DoveTales and other peace publications, and workshops. We invite you to show your support for the Writing for Peace mission by  purchasing your copy today!

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Participation certificates will begin going out this month. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray

This is Where I’ll Die, Translated by Maija Rhee Devine

Like Taking Off Boots, by Maija Rhee Devine

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.