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All the Hidden Jewish Students at Hogwarts

Right before winter break, there was a small backlash against JK Rowling online.  She was answering a fan’s question, and she stated that there had been a Jewish student at Hogwarts all along, even though there was nothing marking him as Jewish in any of the books:

I was always okay with there being a dearth of Jews at Hogwarts, just as I was okay with every other group not represented in the books. I mean, would it have been nice if every person on earth could find someone to identify with at Hogwarts because they saw their own life experience reflected back? Of course. But I enjoyed Middle Earth even with its absence of Jews and Narnia which couldn’t have gotten less Jewish if you tried (hello, Aslan?).  If you create a great world, I’m going to enjoy said world, even if I don’t see myself reflected in it.

But.

What I can’t accept is going backwards in time and stating things that are clearly not in the text.  At no point is Anthony Goldstein identified as Jewish.  At no point are we told that Anthony Goldstein needed off for the High Holidays.  Or that he couldn’t partake in the meal and had the elves prepare him a kosher option.  He isn’t munching on a piece of matzah during the final spring DA meeting.  He doesn’t even have a Bar Mitzvah in Book Three.

If Rowling had kept it non-specific, I could have nodded and rolled with it.  If she had said, “don’t worry; there have been Jewish students at Hogwarts,” I would have said, “oh, okay, maybe there weren’t any during Harry’s time, but I can accept the idea that there were Jewish students there before and after.”  I think that type of statement can be particularly helpful for parents who have children struggling with the idea that there would be no place for them at Hogwarts.

But if she didn’t take the time to write it (and I don’t think she should have taken the time to write it; this wasn’t Anthony Goldstein’s story), she doesn’t get to claim it after the fact.  She can’t suddenly start sticking labels on everyone in the book, insisting that this person was really a vegetarian and this person was blind and this person was gay despite providing no evidence within the text.  She wrote the book she wrote, and now she needs to own that.  And I mean that in the nicest way: she wrote some  wonderful books.  Don’t undo it by shoving things into the pages that aren’t there.

I am bothered that she’s telling us that Anthony Goldstein is Jewish now, because if he is, she has written someone who is so deeply assimilated that there is no evidence of his culture left.  Which makes me think — since she is the author — that she sees the best kind of Jew as one who doesn’t admit he is Jewish at all.  It makes me think that she sees the best kind of Jew as the kind that could pass as Christian.  Perhaps not fair, and I think this is definitely a case of ignorance and not hostility.  Which is to say that I am not bothered by her not knowing about Judaism; I’m only bothered by her getting Judaism so incredibly wrong.

Though perhaps this Twitter exchange has opened Rowling’s eyes and made her realize that if she wants diverse characters in her books (if that is important to her, since she is the author and gets to make choices for her books), she needs to write diverse characters into her books.  They don’t need to always be in the foreground, but the details need to be there.

You know that I hold the Harry Potter series as sacred, and they will always have a place in our house.  I love them and I never needed a Jewish character to love them.  I don’t mind follow up details that better explain relationships or situations in the book as she did with the Draco Malfoy passage on Pottermore.  But it’s too late to go backwards and insist things were there that never made it into the books.

Totally off-topic reminder that tomorrow is #MicroblogMonday, so get writing.

January 25, 2015   19 Comments

529th Friday Blog Roundup

I learned about the Love Actualized set of questions from a New York Times article.  If you click on that link, you can play them from your phone or computer.  It’s 36 questions of increasing intimacy that you ask back and forth with another person such as your partner or close friend.  You start out talking about whom you’d like as a dinner guest, and you end up dissecting a problem you’re dealing with by asking advice.

All in all, it’s pretty interesting — both the other person’s answers AND the questions the creators thought would help you fully understand the other person.

So there you go: 36 questions to use in a conversation this weekend (and don’t forget the staring part at the end — read the article to understand that).  You’re welcome.

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Stop procrastinating.  Go make your backups.  Don’t have regrets.

Seriously.  Stop what you’re doing for a moment.  It will take you fifteen minutes, tops.  But you will have peace of mind for days and days.  It’s the gift to yourself that keeps on giving.

As always, add any new thoughts to the Friday Backup post and peruse new comments in order to find out about methods, plug-ins, and devices that help you quickly back up your data and accounts.

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And now the blogs…

But first, second helpings of the posts that appeared in the open comment thread last week.  In order to read the description before clicking over, please return to the open thread:

Okay, now my choices this week.

Not a Wasted Word has a post about decluttering her house and getting rid of the things she no longer needs.  While it’s necessary work, it’s also scary because in doing so, she is getting rid of things that were once very important to her.  And if they’re no longer important now, who is she?  She writes, “Letting go of so many things that I acquired in the pursuit of some creative expression and healing has been difficult. I’m not sure who I am, or more accurately, who I am becoming, and that is a terrifying prospect.”  It’s a great post about reflecting on a life.

Torthúil has a wonderful blogoversary post explaining why her blog means so much to her.  I love the 4 reasons why she keeps writing.  But moreover, I love the idea of the room under the carpet.

Kveller has a post about keeping frozen embryos even after you’re finished with family building.  She explains: “But each year, when this envelope comes in the mail (and the kids look like angels as they sleep), I start to wonder. What would it be like to add another miracle to our family? What would he or she look like? Be like? This annual bill makes us take the time to stop and think about our lives and our children and talk about our family and our future.”  It’s a wonderful post about the decisions we make.

Lastly, No Baby Ruth has a post about getting the first period after a birth, and the emotions and questions it stirs up.  Especially since this isn’t a first step to trying again.  Their family building journey is done, and it brings forth the “now what” sensation of having your relationship with your reproductive organs change.  A thought-provoking read.

The roundup to the Roundup: Questions to ask your friend or partner this weekend.  Your weekly backup nudge.  And lots of great posts to read.  So what did you find this week?  Please use a permalink to the blog post (written between January 16th and 23rd) and not the blog’s main url. Not understanding why I’m asking you what you found this week?  Read the original open thread post here.

January 23, 2015   7 Comments

Basted Eggs

Why had no one told me about basted eggs?

Josh went out to breakfast and ordered something called basted eggs.  He took a photo and texted it to me.  They looked like perfect eggs over medium: whites fully cooked, yolks runny.

Last night, we were both still hungry after dinner and decided we wanted an egg.  Did we want… perchance… to try this “basted egg” thing?

Yes, we did.

So all you do is start out your eggs however you fry your eggs.  I heat the pan over medium, spray some cooking spray on the pan, and then add the cracked eggs.  When the whites looks close to being set, you pop a lid on the pan.  Our lid goes with our stockpot, so it didn’t really “fit” per se, but it rested slightly inside the pan, forming enough of a seal.  You’ll start seeing condensation on the inside of the lid.  Then the tops of the yolks will cloud over, as if someone is dragging a bit of white over the yolk and cooking it.  Then it’s time to take off the lid and slide the eggs out of the pan.

They were amazing.  I have a 50/50 chance of cracking the yolk when I try to flip eggs, but because this method doesn’t use flipping, the yolks were perfectly intact.  (That is, if I hadn’t broken one of the yolks cracking open the egg in the first place.)

The directions we read talked about adding water to the pan before putting on the lid.  But it wasn’t necessary at all.

Dear basted eggs, I love you.

 

January 22, 2015   14 Comments

Staying or Going in the Infertility World

So I read two articles back-to-back, and (of course) they reminded me of our little corner of the blogosphere, the ALI community.  Neither had anything to do with infertility on the surface.  But, you know, I can make anything about my wonky ovaries.

staying_going

Image: Jenny Downing via Flickr

Send the Elevator Back Down

So the first article was about the concept of “send the elevator back down.”  Do you know this idea?  It’s paying-it-forward.  You succeed in your career goals, usually due to other people helping you along the way, and you turn around and help everyone else reach their similar career goals since you’re now in a unique position of holding useful knowledge and perhaps having connections that other people are trying to build.

I’m a big fan of this idea, and mostly put it in action when it comes to writing/publishing.  With an MFA and four books under my belt, I have knowledge and connections to give away to others.  I like to read, so it’s a win-win: I help you get your book published and I, in turn, have a new book to read.

And… well… we sort of see this play out in our community.  Someone resolves their infertility or they move from childless to parenting (two different things — you can resolve without reaching parenthood and you can equally reach parenthood without ever resolving), but they stick around to help guide or support other people.  Sometimes they stick around simply because this is their community where they feel most comfortable, but others make the conscious decision to help guide people through treatments or adoption or living child-free; either because they know how difficult it can be and want to make the journey easier for the next person, or because they benefitted from other people back when they were starting out, and they want to turn around and pay it forward.

I’d argue that the usefulness of the information and support after infertility is akin to the usefulness of the information and connections we see in the work world.  I can tell you how to write a proposal in the same way I can tell you my experience with clotting disorders, but one person cannot repeat another person’s experience moment for moment.  Sticking around and giving information is just that — sending the elevator back down.  You can’t control the other person’s ultimate elevator ride.  It’s about politeness.  It’s about not draining others.  It’s about sticking around once you have something of value — knowledge.

But it’s also about sticking around to continue to support even when you don’t technically need the support anymore.  Or the support you need has changed and you’re getting it from somewhere else.

So why would we ever run that type of person out of a community or declare their support unneeded?  Why would we ever reject the elevator being sent back down, insisting that we can either call for it ourselves or ask only that other people on the ground floor push the button?  To me, support is support, especially if it’s coming from someone within the same building.

I’m eternally grateful to the people who stuck around and sent the elevator back down for me.  They may not have had anything useful in terms of helping me reach my goal, but they were the people who sent down the styrofoam cups of tea on the elevator.  Or who simply held my hand when I was nervous riding to the next floor.  I didn’t need them to solve my problems, but I was grateful that when I was drowning, there were other people around me who were swimming that I could cling to when I need a few seconds to catch my breath.

Breakcation

The other was about the hot hot feminist trend (if Jezebel says it’s hot, it’s hot) of leaving it all behind with a breakcation.  Think Wild, think Eat, Pray, Love, think all the times you’ve read about people uprooting their lives and leaving their community/family/job behind to kickstart a new life/goal/mindset.

It’s nice to see women participating in something men have been doing for many centuries — the reinvention trope — and sometimes one needs a break in order to become their best selves.  I’m not talking about a break in the sense of a pause; I mean that sometimes people need to leave entirely to fulfill their needs.  Sometimes you need to focus on yourself.

There are some that are angry when people stop reading or writing when they hit pregnancy or parenthood.  There are some who call them selfish and lash out at them for leaving behind the people who supported them.

But I also understand that sometimes you need to do what is best for yourself.  You are the only person who can take care of you, and if leaving is what will help you, then that is what you should do.  No one should stay to send the elevator back down at the expense of their own sanity or happiness.

There are some who can’t stay.  Staying is too painful, too detrimental to their happiness, holding them back.  They aren’t leaving because they don’t care about others; they are leaving because they care about themselves.  And we should hug those people and send them on their way with good wishes.

Us

Every single one of us will reach resolution (I hope) whether or not we reach parenthood, and we will all need to make the personal decision whether to stay or go.  Whether we’re going to stick around and send the elevator back down or make a clean break so we can start the next section of our life.  We won’t necessarily know beforehand how we’ll feel when we reach our own crossroads, but I would love for the decision to always rest in the hands of the individual.  That the community, as a living, breathing organism, doesn’t make the decision for the individual by turning our back or yanking their arm.

I have been lucky enough to be part of this online community for 8 1/2 years, and I’ve seen the community members shift and change as people enter and exit.  The beautiful thing, of course, in that longevity is holding on to the other people who have also been here for years; the stability in those relationships which allow the rest of the movement to feel more like a dance than a roller coaster ride.

To the people who have left, I wish you well.  I’m glad our lives bounced against each other when they did.  To the people who have stayed, thank you.  I know I always have a group of people I can say things to that get it.

January 21, 2015   15 Comments

The Generation After the Willy Loman Generation

I was going to put this at the bottom of the last post, but I think it warrants a totally separate discussion.  I was referring to current adults as the Willy Loman generation.

We’re the generation that saw the gatekeepers removed.  Okay, not really removed, but shunted out of the way on certain streets.  We still have agents, editors, casting directors, and music executives, but now we also have people who are having their voice heard on social media.  And it’s an entirely new way to feel like crap about your place in the world when you see someone else getting their thoughts heard through this means and you’re still not even though no one is standing in your way.

I’m not just talking about the Heather Armstrongs of the world whose writing has hit the mainstream: we have plenty of examples close to home of people that we perceive of having their voice heard.  I can look at my friends list on Facebook and see who receives a lot of feedback on their thoughts and who does not.  And I can judge my own level of feedback against others.  We each determine at what level of recognition we will be satiated, we will feel as if our voice is heard.

What I guess I’ve really been tossing around in my mind these last few days since I read that article is the idea of this next generation: the one we are creating or raising.  We’re putting our kids online.  We’re writing about them and throwing up pictures.  And part of this is keeping family and friends in the loop about our lives, but part of it is that we also make them the subject for readers, much in the same way DIY bloggers may feature the room they’re making over or a food blogger may feature a recipe.  Many parents feature their kids, and those kids are human beings who are going to one day grow up and have their own relationship with the idea of seeking attention.

I’m not trying to make anyone squirm, but I think this is a really important conversation to have and I think by the end of this post, I ultimately can see the good in posting online.

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Blogs have turned our lives — and by extension, our children’s lives — into small-scale Truman Shows.  Remember that movie?  We watch Truman from conception, and really, when it comes to infertility blogs, that’s how far back it goes in some cases.  I don’t “know” your children, but I’ve read the stories and seen the pictures, and they are an extension of the writer (whom I care about and often times have a friendship that has grown outside the blog).

And I know, at least when it comes to my kids, that they are cognizant that people know about them without ever having met them.  And really, in comparison to most kids, mine are barely online.  There are no images of them, and while I may write about my own foibles as the tooth fairy — a story that features them — I try never to write about them.  Still, they’ve scrolled through comments on a post that they’ve been in and asked who all these people are who have read the story.

Still, they know that there are people out there who are willing to pay attention.  And by default, there are no Willy Lomans currently amongst the twins and every child I know.  They are in the spotlight, and it’s not just close family and friends who are following their life as it was when I was a child.  It is family, friends, and anyone else that we connect with via social media.  And in cases such as the blog or Twitter, by not keeping the settings on private, it could be anyone in the world.

What will that do to our kids — to have that knowledge that people want to pay attention to them?  I’m not talking about the children of Heather Armstrong or Ree Drummond who are featured front and center on their blog and known by hundreds of thousands of people.  I’m talking about all our kids.  Yes, it’s a matter of scale, but (almost) everyone is on the scale.  They are aware — at least I can say they are by upper elementary school — that they are the stars of their own personal Internet show.

Will it turn all of our kids into the equivalent of child stars and will their Willy Loman-ness come from having the attention go away?  Isn’t that the common problem we see with child stars and why so many of them struggle with growing up?  They are accustomed to the attention and feeling special in front of the camera, and then they age and have to learn how to grab attention because it is no longer being handed to them on a silver platter?

Some are okay with the idea that the attention is over because they never loved it in the first place (or may have had no concept of the attention if they were young enough).  Some learn how to keep grabbing attention, aging into new acting roles because of luck or talent.  And then a portion of them deal with the fallout of having the warmth of attention snatched away from them, and unable to figure out how to get it back, become depressed or addicted or in trouble.

So it makes me wonder if by placing them online so young, we are creating a state of hedonic adaptation and forcing every child towards a mindset of screaming “look at me!” in bigger and bigger ways into the future.

Or maybe not.  Maybe this could be a good thing.

Since everyone is online and attention if being paid (in the Willy Loman fashion), does it all even out?  Are we actually doing kids a favour by showing them early on that there is nothing special, nothing magical about attention?  It’s not something they really need to strive for as we’re still doing in our generation because they’ve already learned that attention doesn’t really bring what you think it will bring.  It isn’t the panacea solving all problems.  I have a strong feeling that even if attention were paid to Willy Loman, that it wouldn’t have been enough or the right kind.  I think Willy Loman would have always ended up Willy Lomaning.

Because right now it feels as if social media is a mountain pushing its way out of the ground.  At the very top are the early adaptors who also happened to have good content who have used social media as a springboard to create a large platform or to move on to other things.  And scattered down the side of the mountain, at various heights, are the rest of the public, with some people choosing to stay on low ground and not even attempt to climb up.

But perhaps the weight of this many people on the mountain will ultimately force it to crumble and become much more like a plateau. Maybe all the reality shows and Internet highlighting shows and the fame frenzy of social media is like a fever that needs to break.

And when that happens, maybe it will be for the best, and we’ll live in a world where fame isn’t chased or rewarded.  We’ll focus locally vs. globally, on family and friends instead of strangers.  You know, utopia.

A girl can dream.

January 20, 2015   4 Comments

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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