About authorpaulafriedman

Author of The Rescuer's Path (2012, Plain View Press), a novel of love, courage, and family in the antiwar movement. Author of Time and Other Details (2006, Highlights Press), a selection of award-winning poetry on history, life, and other ephemera. Author of numerous stories and poems published in literary and other journals and anthologies. Freelance editor for university and trade presses. Former director, Rosenberg Award for Poems on the Jewish Experience. Former founding editor/facilitator, The Open Cell literary magazine/collective. Former newspaper reporter, museum public relations director, gallery readings director, etc. MA/MFA, San Francisco State U.; MLS, U.C. Berkeley; BA, Cornell U.

Confronting sociopolitical denial

“It’s fine–I’m fine–everything’s fine,” says Theo parodically (Theo is the hero in Cuaron’s politically brilliant film Children of Men), whenever something particularly terrible occurs. For indeed isn’t “Everything’s fine” the claim of power, stupidity, and/or denial through the years?

This comes to mind, this late-March 2014, as we read of the county officials ignoring hydrologists’ and army engineers’ warnings of the deadly hillside that fell, 4 days ago, on the town of Oso, WA. I am reminded of it, too, by the county officials and new neighbor here who continue to ignore concerns that the neighbor’s excavations may harm my easement and home. I am reminded further when I consider the “deaf ear” turned to the dangers of noise (such as constant television noise in hospitals or apartment buildings) just as, for decades, the dangers of air-particle pollution were denied.

Above all, I am reminded of the Cold War years, not only the crazed denial that more nukes would bring more security, but, worse, the all-permeating claim–enforced especially through “freudian” psychology and its popularizers (including the too beautifully made but inimical films The Snakepit and The Goddess, and that worst-of-the-worst pop-psych books, Generation of Vipers)–that, especially for women, blacks, and the powerless, If You Think Something’s Wrong, It Means That Something’s Wrong in You.

The greatest internal liberation of the 1960s, for many of us, and of the early 1970s for many women, was to see that No It Isn’t Wrong in Us–We Are Whole and the Problem Is the System.

Yes, the problems, as we learned, were and are in our political-social system(s). Part of what we–as persons, as writers, as woman or man or trans or other, and of any age–continue to learn, and each generation learns anew, is what–and how pervasive, and at how many levels–these systems are.

 

Copyright 2014 by Paula Friedman. All rights reserved.

“Sentience” selected as Valentine’s Day’s Flash Fiction, Feb.14, 2014

Paula Friedman’s flash-fiction love story “Sentience,” a tale of tragic love between victor and defeated on a distant planet in 2365, is the Valentine’s Day Friday Flash Ficton on the popular Morgen Bailey’s Blog. Enjoy! http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/flash-fiction-friday-124-sentience-a-love-story-by-paula-friedman

A Writer’s Life

Wow work at home! A writer’s life, an editor’s life, oh hey. Sit around at home, take your good time, concentrate in silence, work! Oh  joy.

Take a work break skiing in the yard

xcskitracksinyard smllfile blusunnytrees a 10-minute drive to a mountain lake

yesweb72greenlakemntnkick back . . .

Problem is . .  .

  • construction noise next door
  • phone solicitors
  • running out of office supplies
  • billing clients
  • looking for clients
  • too many clients at once
  • taxes
  • getting everything done
  • feral dogs

But there are joys, especially when you finish, as I did yesterday, a final edit of another book!

timeandotherdetails

Author Readings in Berkeley, California, June 13 and 14

This longtime Bay Area activist will be in Berkeley, California, to read and sign copies of my recent novel, The Rescuer’s Path, on June 13 and June 14. Be great to see you at either reading; both include Q&A–discussion and socializing time.

*June 13, 2013, 7-9 pm, I’m reading in the Aquarian Minyan Author Series, St. John’s Presbyterian Church (Fireside Room) (this is a benefit for the Minyan, small donation suggested but not required. Light refreshments included).

* June 14, 2013, 12:15-1:15pm, Berkeley City College (in the Atrium), Center St. between Milvia and Shattuck Ave. (free).

The Rescuer’s Path is the tale of a Holocaust survivor’s daughter who, in Nixon-era Washington DC, aids an Arab-American antiwar leader suspected by the FBI in a lethal truck-bombing. It is the story of their budding trust and friendship, and of  their tragic love. And it recounts the search of their birth daughter, thirty years later in the shadows of 9/11, for the truth of her origins.

Ursula K. Le Guin calls this novel “exciting, physically vivid, and romantic.” Cheryl Strayed, acclaimed author of Wild, says “The Rescuer’s Path held me from the first page to the last.” Flannery O’Connor Award winner Carole L. Glickfeld says “I could not stop reading this novel–I love it.” Small Press Review says “The writing is lyrical and poetic, the characters vivid, and the story captivating.” Berkeley activist/songwriter Carol Denney says “This is the book you can’t put down, the people you will remember, the vibrant story we all share.”

And more: “These characters will break your heart and put it back together again,” notes Portland author Heather Sharfeddin. FirstMotherForum calls The Rescuer’s Path “a compelling tale with universal themes of separation and reconciliation.” It is a novel, notes Jewish Transcript (JT) News, “that asks us, How do we make peace, in ourselves and in the world?”

Come hear the reading, ask questions, and perhaps take home a signed copy of The Rescuer’s Path (2012, PVP, trade paperback $15.95).

Questions about the readings? Send as a comment here or visit me on facebook at Paula Friedman (same photo as author photo for this blog).

Remembering November 3rd

Very strangely, it was only after I got back in touch with an old boyfriend and friend from my pre-Jurassic college days that I learned, from one of his chance comments, that the “possibly correct” account my brother once told me of my cousin’s ex-husband’s death was true.

I was very moved by this, both because I do care for all these persons, and because in a strange way the tale parallels part of the plot of my recent The Rescuer’s Path novel–the part about the murder of a radical activist.

You may have guessed by now–the real event, the killing, to which I refer tonight is what is now known as the Greensboro Massacre, and my cousin had been, at the time, for some years divorced from the by-then remarried doctor who was one of two doctor-organizers shot to death, that November 3, 1971, while organizing textile workers, in Greensboro, North Carolina, by the Ku Klux Klan.

Why do I recount this now? Because this is our heritage. Yours too, if you will take it.

We have loved, lived, struggled, felt empathy for one another; many have died. La lutte continue, as we say, just as does much else in life. Remember.

Finding oneself in the late-1960s antiwar movement

With the Occupies and the growing third-party movements as elections near, this year, we are reminded of the days of hope, the time we call “the Sixties.” For many of us, this time was primarily, or crescendoed in, 1965 to 1969 or so. My essay “God’s Eyes,” originally published in 1994 in Viet Nam Generation under the title “You asked ‘What was happening then?'” received a Pushcart Prize nomination and, in 1996, honorable mention for the first New Millenium Writings nonfiction award. “God’s Eyes” is written as if speaking to my first child, given up for adoption and who had, as an adult, in the early 1990s found me. “God’s Eyes” tells of discovering, through love, pregnancy, and a nonviolent demonstration in the antiwar movement, my self–my depths, and that I loved, and that we can each love and struggle for a more loving society.

Find it here– http://www.highlightscommunications.com/gods_eyes_sample.htm

Remembering the Cuban Crisis

  • I was fresh out of college, new to Berkeley. The woman in the next apartment had her radio on that evening and invited me in to hear Kennedy’s speech; people commented how well-phrased it was. The rain, that night and the next day, was that gray-silver cloud that descends when we don’t know if life is soon over. I remember walking up Telegraph that afternoon and buying a lighter and raincoat in the dimestore, after phoning friends to find someone with a car and others who were ready so we could flee. On the campus, some of us met and were having coffee when a siren went off.

    A minute later, we heard the siren moving and realized it was only a fire truck, and breathed again. Later, there was a corner rally and Bill Mandel said “Look, I’m middle-aged, for me maybe it’s all right, but you people are still young! You need your lives,” and Marvin Garson invited everyone to that evening’s End of the World party.

    In the Bassens’ apartment, three of us discussed fleeing and timing; Stephanie phoned the Chronicle. Stephanie: “What time will the Polish ships reach the (US ships’) blockade?” Reporter: “Lady, if I knew that, I’d be in the State Department.”

    In the morning, on little sleep, four of us–Eli and his girlfriend, and Gene, and I–drove up 101 in Gene’s car, which had uncertain brakes. Near Willetts, we camped, buying “good steaks for a barbeque” in a small-town grocery; “They probably think we’re the only people not worried,” Gene or Eli said.

    By the next afternoon, we were heading back, and stopped in Mendocino–my first trip there. I and one of the guys were feeling very embarrassed or ashamed to have run in fear from a fate that all of us around, all of us in the world, might now confront.

    We climbed on the bluffs above the ocean, nearly slipping a couple of times onto the rocks and ocean below. We stopped in a bookstore and I bought a copy of the journal Daedalus, and then we sat on the grass above the town for awhile. I was reading the Daedalus, and there was an article by Bettelheim about surviving the concentration camps, and in it he said, “In this situation” (where one’s life, and everyone around’s, was being threatened, by people who’d no concern for human life), “even to survive was, itself, to fight back.”
    In the evening, we returned to Berkeley. While we were away, the ships had met and the Polish ships pulled back. But the crisis continued until the agreement, that Saturday, and (it has since been learned) for some weeks thereafter. And, as my friend Harvey said, sometime that December, the biggest danger was in the week before the announcement, when the administration had been determining whether to try a blockade or an attack.
    Copyright  2012 by Paula Friedman. All rights reserved, including all print and electronic media.

In recent novel, young antiwar lovers flee police to wilderness

The recent page-turning novel The Rescuer’s Path recounts a tale of lovers struggling against an unjust, war-making society.

The Rescuer’s Path is the tale of a Holocaust survivor’s young daughter who, in Nixon-era Washington DC, discovers and aids a wounded fugitive, a half-Arab antiwar activist suspected of the lethal bombing of a US Army truck. Overcoming their fear and distrust, the two young people become friends and  flee cross-country, pursued by an implacable FBI. In the Rocky Mountain wilderness, they learn each other’s depths of love and  courage. But their pursuers close in, in tragic confrontation.

Three decades later, in the shades of 9/11, the young couple’s daughter, raised adopted, seeks out the truth of her origins.

Ursula K. Le Guin calls The Rescuer’s Path “Exciting, physically vivid, and romantic.” Small Press Review terms this novel “Lyrically written, the characters vividly drawn, the story captivating.” Flannery O’Connor Award–winning author Carole L. Glickfeld says “I could not stop reading this novel–I loved it.” Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild and Torch, notes, “Vivid, humane, and wise, The Rescuer’s Path held me from its first page to its last.” “A story of what it means to do the right thing,” says novelist Heather Sharfeddin; “These characters will break your heart and put it back together again.”

The Rescuer’s Path (2012, Plain View Press, trade pb., 200pp., $15.95) is available through http://www.amazon.com, http://www.plainviewpress.net, and many online bookstores, and by order through your local bookstore (distributed by Ingram).

Contact paula@paula-friedman.com to arrange a reading and/or signing for your reading group or organization.

Best Short Fiction and Novellas

Today’s list contains an unpredetermined number of short stories, short-short/flash fiction, and novellas. They are not ranked here. (N) indicates a novella.

The Facts around the Helsinki Rocaccios (N). Yann Martel’s novella recounts a friendship “to death do us part,” and invokes a heroic creativity around this concept.

The Ambitious Guest. In this simple classic, Nathanial Hawthorne evokes all those existential questions that, for many other authors, require tomes. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, be it noted, was Hemingway’s attempt at same.

Terminal. In this very short story, Nadine Gordimer delves love’s confrontation with the impossible.

Tell Me a Riddle (N). Tillie Olsen explores a marriage, a time and its politics, the  interweaving of political struggle with ordinary human compassion, a dying woman’s search for meanings, and the real stuff of love. Read this.

I Stand Here Ironing. In these five pages, Olsen brings us into the heart of a mother raising a child against all odds–and learning what human freedom means.

The Long Way Out. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s eloquent “frame” story, we are immersed in a doctor’s account of a young mother’s inability to accept her husband’s death on the day he was to bring her home.

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Ursula K. Le Guin’s tale of the citizens of a near-perfect society built on the sufferings of a single child invites comparison with Dostoevski’s Grand Inquisitor scene. Le Guin’s The Day before the Revolution and her The Shobies are no slouches, either.

The Metamorphosis (N). “One morning Gregor Samsa woke from a night of troubled dreams to discover he had been turned into a giant insect.” Thus begins the most famous and unforgettable of Franz Kafka’s uniquely voiced tales.

Toga Party. Yeah. Usually I don’t go for John Updike’s works, but this one is a classic. Like several others here, it invokes the matter of confronting death–in this case, in the world of suburbia. The story is very well done.

Tlon, Uqbar, [and I forget the other two names] (N). Jorge Borges’s narrator tracks the mysterious manuscripts and artifacts of Tlon [or is it Uqbar?] through the maze of their mental metamorphoses, in this elegant, illuminating exploration (presuming it exists). We may note that this story generated, among innumerable other works, Paula Friedman’s short story Urr. . . , in which a physics-defying spaceship finds (“finds”) the planet Urrrr. . ., “whatever it may be,” whose inhabitants have–and use–an arithmetic entirely (and so, dangerously) different from our own.

The Prayer. This very short story envelopes us in the three voices–everyday, fantasy, and prayer–of a socially isolated, imaginative teenager struggling to emerge from a world of Cold War post-Holocaust banalities. Author is Paula Friedman.

The following four long novellas are definitely classic “bests.”

Notes from Underground (N). Self-doubts,universal questions, frustrations, and sorrows threaten to drown this hero in wonderfully complex, sometimes self-referential, brilliant prose. Fyodor Dostoevsky.

White Nights (N). Doestoevsky tells of the lost love that obsesses and leads the narrator through the long, white Russian nights.

[Title forgotten. (N).] Par Lagerkvist. This is the tale of an overarching love–a simple account of a man and woman who meet, fall in love, overcome obstacles, have and love a baby more than one might have thought possible, and learn what love and loss can mean. A sort of “opposite” is Lagerkvist’s (title novella in) The Eternal Smile, with its millenia of multitudes of dead human souls recalling (through the concepts of) their lives during their quite separated historic and prehistoric epochs.

Heart of Darkness. You know–“Mistah Kurtz, he dead.” Joseph Conrad.

Very good. We now have 10+ “bests” by, mostly, well-known authors, and one or two of my own. And a  few extras. Enjoy them all; every one of these short (and longer) fictions is worth reading, and most are unforgettable. But what are your candidates for Best Short Story, Best Flash (short-short) Fiction, Best Novella? And if you like short-short science-fiction, check out the science fiction microstory contest on LinkedIn. Its anthology will come out this winter.

Single Mother, Birth Mother–Share Your Experience

I am both the reunited first mother of my older son and the former Welfare mother of my younger son. Reading recently of the hardships confronting a new single mother, I remember how hard it is, the decision we each confront to raise or yield our beloved newborns. I know how the loss of our babies to adoption tears us apart, yet how, alternatively, social oppressions may crush upon our children, to whatever extent we cannot hold oppression off, if we raise our kids alone.

Halfway through my novel The Rescuer’s Path, a middle-aged woman who had relinquished her baby to adoption long before, and the twenty-something woman who’d been that baby, struggle through hope and loss toward reunion. Their thoughts and fear, hope and joy reflect the hole in time, the sense of not-there–of a would-have-been world–that pervades adoption. I’ve written about this before–in the online collection Poems of Adoption, in my “Reunion” essay in the anthology Touched by Adoption (2000, Green River), and elsewhere.

But only twice did my poetry or prose evoke what it is to raise a child alone, on Welfare, with no social supports. First, in “You!”–a brutally honest poem, winner of a 2005 Oregon State Poetry Association Award; second, in a nearly published memoir, The Baby Book.

If you have lived the experience, you know. Even to glance into blogs, fb sites, listserves, or printed books that deal with mothers trying to raise whole a newborn alone, or to let go a beautiful new child into another family’s world–reopens this never-healed wound. You will remember, you will recall. You will recall the love, the fear for this miracle child, the vulnerability.

If you have been/are such a mother, please post (up to 100 words). We all need to hear these accounts, to share what we have felt and learned.