I’m Heartbroken for Our Country: Everyday Magic, Day 954

Yesterday, a woman spoke with great poise, integrity, and courage about how she was terrified that the supreme court nominee would accidentally kill her when he put his hand over her mouth while sexually assaulting her. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford told a room full of career politicians and also our nation and world about the attack and trauma that derailed her life when she was only 16 years old, a moment when two men’s laughter — with all its scorn and privilege — landed in her psyche in a way she could never forget. Recounting how a combination of Kavanaugh being drunk and her wearing a one-piece bathing suit under her clothes was all that saved her from being raped, she spoke of her survival and its cost. This she shared with a room of old white men and some women who were determined, no matter what she said, to confirm Kavanaugh, possibly right now as I’m writing this. “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified,” she told all of us.

I cannot fathom how anyone hearing her testimony and Kavanaugh’s smug and angry testimony (not to mention his tone and demeanor that’s not what any us, despite our political views, want in a supreme court judge) could not be moved, could not think about the women, men, and others they know who have carried the burning weight of similar trauma. I cannot imagine how any senators or representatives from Lindsey Graham to Kansas’ own Pat Roberts can vote to confirm Kavanaugh given what happened yesterday. What must it take to have siloed your own conscience in such a way that you could go the party line at the price of your own humanity?

But I can fathom what it is to carry — as I titled my book about the Holocaust — a needle in the bone — the remnant (that can’t be removed and we make a protective shield around) of being tortured, yes, truly tortured, by another human. I’ve listened to many people share their stories of sexual assault and near misses: a woman whose brother regularly raped her, a man who was date-raped, a friend who just barely made it to her car in time after a date, another who didn’t. I hear my daughter telling me how she’s cat-called almost daily in Minneapolis. I drive by frat houses where I see gaggles of young women tipsy in their high heels heading into a party. I read stories of trans people beaten close to death or murdered. I’ve heard many testimonies of middle-aged men, still ripped apart when they trip in their wounds of being sexually abused decades earlier by their priests.

The soul-stealing damage of sexual assault, whether full-on rape or almost, isn’t the kind of thing that fixes itself with ease like a minor break in young bones. It surely lands on our deepest vulnerability, registering as a threat not just to our bodies but to our lives. Other kinds of trauma born of bullies bullying also can leave life-long wounds to continually mitigate and navigate. As the daughter of a physically abusive father, I have some practice in decades of revisiting the violence done to my young body and soul, and I know that healing is, at best, a spiral path leading to resilience, not a door out of the house of our being where loose boards and broken stairs abide.

It’s a clear walk from what is happening today, this week, this time in our world to the damage that patriarchal power has wrought on women and trans people, and for that matter, men too. The notion that one gender innately has more power than another, and the reality that our culture is set up in many ways to reinforce men, and more precisely, straight white middle- or upper-class men, makes for a difficult, at times impossible, way out. If Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony wasn’t a way into the hearts of those now ignoring her words and presence (some even while believing her), what does this say about who gets to make the rules for whom? A whole lot when it comes to the privilege some claim to cover the mouths and maybe even accidentally (or purposely) suffocate others.

So I’m heartbroken, America. I can’t believe we’re here with so many people poised to put someone on the court who clearly doesn’t see women (and perhaps others) as worthy enough to sit at the table. I’m especially thinking of all of you who have your own needles in the bone activated today, and I wish you all manner of comfort, and ways through to find your strength, tenderness, and peace.

At the same time, I know our outrage and pain isn’t going to go underground or vanish into the winds of political power. I think of a wonderful post Meghan Heriford, the owner of Lawrence’s Ladybird Diner, recently shared about a woman she was talking to after having Meg had the woman’s abusive boyfriend removed from the diner. Meg was concerned that the woman wouldn’t believe she was worthy enough to leave this man, and she reminded us us that standing together, holding those who need support, and saying no to the bullies among us is at the core of our work now.  “Poke a sister and you’re likely to get the whole swarm,” Meg wrote.

My heart is buzzing. Yours too?

Miriam’s Well

Get your Copy of Miriam's Well: A Modern Day Exodus here.

A novel released on Passover (March 30) 2018, Ice Cube Press.

ISBN: 9781888160970, $21.99, 586 Pages (including recipes). Click here to get your copy (free shipping).

In this modern day retelling of the Exodus, Miriam wanders the political and spiritual desert of a changing America, torn between her roots as the Jewish daughter of a Black father and white mother, her yearning for home, and her brothers Aaron and Moses. Beginning in the middle of the 1965 New York City blackout, when stuck in the pitch-black subway somewhere in the East River, Miriam's family encounters a mysterious rabbi, who persuades the family to go to Israel where the family is caught in the 6-Day War. The losses from the war break apart the family, scattering Moses to western Kansas to live with evangelical Christians, Aaron to New York City to practice corporate law, and Miriam all over America. An astonishing cook and singer, Miriam has a knack for showing up to feed and help people at at landmark events, including People's Park during the Summer of Love, the Wounded Knee encampment in South Dakota, the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, the Oklahoma City terrorist attack, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. As she seeks the promised land, she shows her people, and eventually herself, how to turn the chaos and despair of our times into music, meals, and miracles.

See the Readers Guide here

The novel also includes over 35 pages of real recipes from the fictional cooking and baking Miriam does throughout the book, including delicious dishes from Nancy O'Connor's The Rolling Prairie Cookbook, Jayni and Frank Carey's The New Kansas Cookbook, Janet Majure's Recipes Worth Sharing, and Meg Heriford of the Ladybird Cafe.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's retelling of Exodus is a sprawling tapestry, woven of all the threads of a modern-day Miriam's ancestors, and her own present and future. From the Badagry Point of No Return and a sukkah in the Sinai Desert to a series of camps, communes, and cafes all across America, Miriam's Well delves into the mystery of how we find our place in the world, within our families, even within ourselves. ~ Bryn Greenwood, New York Times bestselling author of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

I fell in love with Miriam’s wisdom and her sweet engagements with the people she meets along her lush and vibrant travels. I was plunged to the depths of her nightmares, soared with her song, and emerged blessed to have made the journey with her. Miriam’s Well is the latest terrific book by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.  ~ Jocelyn Cullity, author of Amah & the Silk-Winged Pigeons

Miriam’s Well is truly a hearty feast, and a song of life’s bounty, of its “fragile miracle,” of its sorrows and its cycling, its joy, its mystery, its sorrows, its journeying. The vibrantly moving and compelling storytelling is immediate, intimate, and resounding; bringing us into a complex weaving of tales, told and untold, from the Biblical epic to the painful legacy of United States, which frame the story of one brave woman with an inexhaustible well of caring. Daughter, sister, lover, neighbor, friend, mother, Miriam is one extraordinary ordinary woman whose life is emblematic of our absolutely interdependent web of relationships, physical and metaphysical, over the seasons of a lifetime and the histories of our own time. In Mirriam-Goldberg’s rendering of the web of story that is Miriam’s, Aaron’s, Joseph’s, Moses’, and our own, we are brought into the gift of tenderness and compassion in heartening human response to our historical conundrums. The work is big hearted, embracing, and wonderfully embodies love’s plenty and the power and the beauty of the story, the song, the telling, to remember and transform us. ~ Gale Jackson, author of Put Your Hands on Your Hips and Act Like a Woman: Song, Dance, Black History and Poetics in Performance

Miriam’s Well is a page-turner that gently pulls the reader into the heroine’s quest while also chronicling the country’s cultural revolutions, gastronomic recipes, political causes, women’s communes, spirituality, the AIDS crisis, Oklahoma and Twin Tower terrorist attacks. A compelling writer, Mirriam-Goldberg’s Miriam’s Well captures a quintessential American story, its multitude of nations, of immigrants and indigenes, in the quest towards a meaningful national identity.  ~ Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka, Professor of Theatre, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of Kansas

This startlingly insightful and quietly confrontational novel by poet Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg courageously inserts the biblical prophet Miriam into many of the most daunting and provocative ethical conflicts since the early 60's civil rights revolution, as though we are Israel after the Exodus from slavery and before the Promised Land. Mirriam-Goldberg’s story calls on readers to consider "Have I done enough?" and "What is it that the Lord requires of you?"  A surprising page turner featuring multiple plot twists and turns, the moral challenges and clarity deserve more than attention, they demand debate. Do yourself a favor and share it with friends. ~ Rabbi Mark H. Levin, author of Praying the Bible

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg brings back the charged days of the 1970's revolutions and their aftermath in the decades to come in her novel Miriam's Well. For those of us who lived through those times, the book is a reminder of their importance.” ~ Thomas Pecore Weso, author of Good Seeds: A Menominee Indian Food Memoir.

With this novel, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg has extended her considerable poetic talents to the  narrative form, giving us sustenance for the body (her character's recipes) as well as inspiration for the spirit and the mind.  A masterful adaptation of Biblical wisdom to the challenges of the modern age, entertaining while informing all along the way.  And the storyline provides a marvelous overview of the cultural inflection points in 20th century American history along with an unforgettable character experiencing them.  This is one not to be missed!  ~ Mark Scheel, author of A Backward View: Stories and Poems

Podcasts & Videos

Kansas Public Radio Presents with Kaye McIntyre: Interview (see second podcast listed)

The Exodus, Midrash, and Miriam's Well: Podcast with Rabbi Mark Levin

Miriam's Well: A Modern Day Exodus

Finding the Promised Land in the Exodus of Our Times: Podcast with Rabbi Lori Wynters

Miriam and the New York City Blackout (excerpt from Chapter One)

Miriam's Well in the News

"Thoroughly Modern Miriam" by Jennifer Leeper in the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

Lawrence Magazine feature on Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (and click on + under image to make it bigger)

Eliza Gale's Interviews

Blog Posts

Recipes From (and For) the Journey

Making Stuff Up From Mrs. Potato Head to Eat the Earth

When Miriam Finishes Wandering the Desert

Please Help Me Find Cover Art for Miriam's Well

More

Miriam's Well newsletter special edition (with a great recipe for rugalach)

Miriam's Well Excerpt

See the Press Release Here

Book Tour!

Here's the list in progress of upcoming events that will take place over the 18 months of the book tour. Please visit my events page for details. All events are open to the public. Want me to come to your community? Please contact me here.

Oct. 3: Kansas City - Miriam's Well KC Launch at Function Junction 5-8 p.m. featuring short readings from the novel at 5:30, 6:30, and 7:30. The event features Susan Hancock singing some of the songs Miriam sings and friends of Function Junction baking and cookies some of the recipes from the novel, plus there'll be wine and a 10% discount on Function Junction goods and Caryn's books.

Oct. 10: Burlington, Vermont - Miriam's Well Reading & Writing Midrash Workshop: 7 p.m., Congregation Ruach Hamaqom, a renewal movement synagogue, 168 Archibald St., Burlington.

Oct. 11: Montpelier, Vermont - Miriam's Well Reading 7 p.m., Kellogg Hubbard Library, 135 Main St., Montpelier, VT. Sponsored by the library, Temple Beth Jacob, and Bear Pond Books.

Oct.  21: Lawrence, Kansas - Writing Jewish SymposiumSponsored by Jewish Studies at the University of Kansas, Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation, 917 Highland, Lawrence, KS. part of a day-long symposium featuring Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Renee Perelmutter, and Rena Rossner, and recipes from Miriam's Well. More here.

Oct. 23: Atchison, Kansas - Visiting Writer & Miriam's Well Reading at Benedictine College. 4 p.m., Gangel Seminar Room in Ferrell Learning Center, Benedictine College.

Oct. 27: Madison, Wisconsin - Miriam's Well Reading & Havdalah Service: 7:30 p.m., Beth Israel Center, 1406 Mound St., Madison, WI. Please join us for a reading from Miriam's Well followed by a short Havdalah service (to  welcome in the new week) and reception. More here.

Nov. 15: Lawrence, Kansas - Special Event: Osher Institute, University of Kansas: 7 p.m.:  Sponsored by the Osher Institute, a reading, discussion, and reception featuring recipes from the book.

Dec. 11: Kansas City, MO - Read Local at the Plaza Library6:30 p.m. 4801 Main St., KCMO - reading and discussion of Miriam's Well.

March 14: Hutchinson, KS -  Visiting Writer & Miriam's Well Reading at Hutchinson Community College: details tba.

March 21-22: Emporia, KS -  Visiting Writer & Miriam's Well Reading at Emporia State University: details tba.

March 29: Springfield, N.J. - Reading at Sha'arey Shalom: evening., 78 S. Springfield Ave., Springfield, NJ.

Past Events:

April 28: Lawrence, Kansas -- Book Launch sponsored by the Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation, Lawrence Public Library, The Merc, and the Raven Bookstore.

June 23: Topeka, Kansas - Writing the Tree of Life: Midrash & Personal Mythology to Revision our Lives: 2-4 p.m., Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 SW 10th St., Topeka, KS. A writing workshop based on Miriam's Well to unearth, explore, and revise our life's myths. More here.

June 23: Topeka, Kansas - Miriam's Well Book Launch & Havdalah Service7 p.m., Temple Beth Sholom, 4200 SW Munson, Topeka, KS. Join us for a reading from Miriam's Well, short Havdalah service ( to welcome in the new week) and reception. More here.

June 30: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - Writing the Tree of Life: Midrash & Personal Mythology to Revision Our Lives and Miriam's Well Reading10 a.m. Temple B'Nai Israel, 4901 N. Pennsylvania  Oklahoma City, OK 73112. Workshop and reading followed by lunch featuring recipes from Miriam's Well. More details here.

June 30: Wichita, Kansas - Miriam's Well ReadingWatermark Bookstore, 4 p.m., 4701 E. Douglas, Wichita, KS.

July 8: Prairie Village, Kansas - Miriam's Well Reading & Brunch:  Cafe Ohev at Temple Ohev Shalom,  5711 W. 75th St., Prairie Village, KS 66208. Brunch and a reading. More here.

July 13: Minneapolis, Minnesota - Miriam's Well Reading and Party: 7 p.m., Mojo Coffee Gallery -  2205 California St., Minneapolis, MN 5541. Reading with delectable treats made from the novel.

Aug. 3: Lincoln, Nebraska - Miriam's Well Reading and Reception5:30 p.m. at the Burkholder Project, 719 P Street
Haymarket District, Lincoln -- part of First Fridays.

Aug. 4: Lincoln, Nebraska - Miriam's Well Reading & Reception:  4:30 p.m., Francie & Finch Bookstore, 130 S. 13th Street, Lincoln -- featuring q & a, and a reception with recipes from the novel to try out.

Aug. 26: Overland Park, Kansas - Writing the Tree of Life workshop 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Jewish Community Center's Day of Discovery.

Sept. 6: Pittsburg, Kansas - Visiting Writer & Miriams' Well Reading at Pittsburg State University,  8 p.m., Governor’s Rm of Overman Student Center, Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KS.

Sept. 13: Topeka, Kansas - Visiting Writer & Miriam's Well Reading at Washburn University. 4 p.m., Carole Chapel, 1840 SW College Blvd., Topeka.

For Book Clubs

Would your book club like to read Miriam's Well? If so, just have your club buy six or more books (free shipping!), and Caryn will visit your club via video or phone conferencing or, if you're near where she is, in person. contact Caryn here. 

Me, Too, and All the Women (and Some Men) I Know: Everyday Magic, Day 913

“Me, too.”

I was 19, and I knew it was sexual harassment, but there was nothing I could do about it. He managed the movie theater where I worked concessions, and after I refused to meet him a little apartment he had on the side — one his wife knew nothing about — he drastically cut my hours. He knew I needed the job to pay rent and feed myself, so he kept pressing. I kept saying no. Soon I was down to one short shift a week, but at least I knew why.

But my biggest “me, too” experience was something that I’m only now just seeing. He was a writer and leader I admired, so I was already enamored with him when he hired me as an intern for a publication. At 20 years old, I moved to a strange city where I knew no one,  lived in a horrible sterile apartment, and only had a bike for transportation in an area dangerous for bike riding. Mostly, I was crazy-lonely, and I only had enough self-esteem to fill the truck bed of a Matchbox car. So when this man over twice my age hit on me, even though I said no at first, eventually I fell for it. In the decades since that summer, I looked upon what happened as my fault for not following my gut, which yelled loudly at me to move back to my college town, and pick up my old job at Diary Queen.  In the years since, I was ashamed of myself until this week when it occurred to me that was also a “me, too” experience.”

Reading what people are posting on Facebook and writing in various publications about “me, too,” something clicked. We live in a culture in which men with the accoutrements of power often have the option of harassing, assaulting, or otherwise entrapping those without such power, women as well as some men (e.g. young people hungry to get and keep work as well as people of color and those are otherwise marginalized). Like every woman I know,  plus a number of men, I tripped into a youthful error of judgment, and then, as goes the cultural narrative, blamed myself and didn’t speak about this except to close friends.

“Now that we are speaking, let us never shut up about this kind of thing. I speak up to make certain that this is not the kind of misconduct that deserves a second chance. I speak up to contribute to the end of the conspiracy of silence.” — Lupita Nyong’o

All week, I’ve been reading and hearing heartbreaking stories. One friend bravely shared how she was gang-raped back in the day before there were rape victim support services. Another friend, over lunch, told me of how a boyfriend raped her. Other friends share the sadness, rage, old shame, and fresh pain about lost jobs, terrified walks home, near-misses that weren’t complete misses, and shocking betrayals from men they trusted. A straight man I’ve known for decades wrote how he was sodomized with a knife to his throat. Several gay and trans friends tell of brutal attacks or constant shaming. One night I read Ken the names of all our Facebook friends who posted “me, too,” and after a few minutes, I couldn’t keep from crying for how pervasive this was and still is, a secret the majority of people I know have kept in pain sight.

I’m also reading many comments from people, particularly men, saying, “I believe you,” and “we have a lot of work to do.” I see men offering to work with other men on what they’ve absorbed about male power in our culture, and how to get more cognizant of how it may bleed through their words or deeds. My friend Callid Keefe-Perry, who wrote about the need to be vigilant about the micro-monster potential he and others have in them, gave me permission to reprint this from what he posted on Facebook: “The leering weight of male power is huge and the cumulative press of it rests on the necks and spirits of our sisters, daughters, mothers, and granddaughters. And us. Guys, this pulls on us.” Yes, this also soils the humanity of the men who abuse their power, and the men who benefit from being silent and complicit (see what Quentin Tarantino says about this).

No, this isn’t a witch hunt, Woody Allen and anyone else who thinks so. It’s a reckoning, and just about all of us have work to do: we can speak from courage and love, witness one another in that same courage and love, and learn about how power-over — the kind of currency that comes from wielding control over another — betrays our potential and can destroy others’ potential. This is a time when the doors are swung wide open for hard conversations, deep soul-searching, and expansive healing. For those of you hurting from what’s been brought out of the shadows this last week, me, too. Now let’s together make greater freedom and safety for each other, and the reckoning changes necessary so that our daughters, granddaughters, great-nieces and others in generations to come aren’t saying “me, too” decades from now.