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Florence in Words

Vietnam, Part One

This morning, as I thought about Martin Luther King’s Day, January 16, 2012, I remembered the way I had begun—two months earlier—to write a blog about my trip to Vietnam. At least once a day, and sometimes all day, I couldn’t stop thinking about what the Vietnamese call “the American War,” and the long years of U.S. bombing of this slender piece of land and its resilient people, and also of the U.S. peace movement’s marches, protests, arrests, frustration. I remembered one particularly astonishing moment in Mississippi, during the summer of 1965, when a woman I was interviewing said that the people in Vietnam being bombed were just like her and her folks. “How is that so?” I asked. “They’re colored, too,” she said. “It’s a war against colored.” Read More 
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New Year's Day

Lady Borton and I in Vietnam.
Apologies, apologies, apologies. I ought to fill the page, many pages, with that word. I’ve been silent since early October, perhaps mourning for the loss of that family who stayed with me for a week and then returned to their own life (see blog and photos just below). On November 1, I had to wake up to the realities of two weeks in Vietnam on a schedule that would have tired a teenager. But that’s the way my dear friends, Lady Borton and Nguyen Minh Ha, lead their lives. And I managed, though the journey back—14 hours (from Seoul to New York) sitting upright with leg cramps most of the way, after a five-hour layover and another four-hour flight—sent me to bed for a couple of weeks and the depression returned. Read More 
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End of the Year Letter

Rebecca Seawright, Grandma Alice Jackson holding Kennedy and her new stuffed dog, and Jack Wright, Kennedy's father
Dear Friends:

Yes, I know, I am weeks late with this end-of-the-year letter. What inspired me to write today was coming across last year’s plaintively optimistic letter. I hoped that President Obama would be able to do more, and I hoped that my book would do well and that I would quickly find new forms of productivity.  Read More 
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The Power of Kennedy

I’ve admitted to occasional bouts of depression, assuaged usually by a new mind-moving project, and on occasion by dog-sitting Yoya, a delightful Maltese, whose antics are irrepressibly comic, and whose cuddling warms my heart. Last week, I discovered another possibility—house guests who included a two-year old. Four visitors arrived for a week: daughter Alice, grandson Jack and his wife Maban, and their daughter Kennedy who is several months past two. Kennedy was not a nay-saying two-year-old. Her approach was “let me do it”—from feeding herself to feeding others. Fearless, she fed the largest animals in Central Park’s petting zoo, one food-pebble at a time. And fearless also, she fed Yoya small bits of cheese, and thus won her attention as well as her heart. Read More 
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The Unexpected Rules the Day









Iranian author Shahrnush Parsipur and meSan Francisco State University staff and me
Iranian author Shahrnush Parsipur and me
San Francisco State University staff and me


Long before I set out for the west coast readings, Julie Olsen Edwards, one of Tillie Olsen’s daughters, asked women’s studies faculty at San Francisco State University whether they’d like to have me read from my memoir. She asked them because I was Tillie’s publisher and friend, and because Tillie’s daughters have given women’s studies at SFSU a bequest establishing a Tillie Olsen student award. Read More 
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What's in a Name?

On my recent trip to the west coast, in part I was the guest of four “women’s studies programs,” though I must say at once that none of them are “programs,” and none of them call themselves “women’s studies.” Indeed, they are each departments, though they began life in the 1970s as programs. What is the difference? Does it matter what a university unit is called? And who cares? Read More 
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The Month of April Disappears Without Blogs

I thought I would write blogs as I moved from place to place in California, and so I carried my little Toyota with me. But the most I could do at the end of a day of talking, talking, talking, was to write a brief journal reporting on how tired I was or how I’d spent the day and evening talking. Or, when I was more tired that that, I wrote nothing. And the next morning was no use, for I rose in time to begin another schedule. Read More 
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Triangle Fire

Many friends have written to say I should continue blogging. So, though I still feel as though I were writing into the wind, I am responding with a blog. I said I was expecting two visitors, one from Japan, the other from India, but before I was to see them, my dear friend Janet Zandy flew from Rochester to New York to spend the weekend with me to attend events around the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Factory Fire on March 25, 2011. We attended part of an academic conference on Thursday, and another on Saturday, but the two events that really meant the most to us were not these. On Friday morning at 10 a.m., hundreds of women and men gathered at Union Square, 14th Street for a March of the Shirtwaists down to the building itself from which 146 mostly young girls burned to death or chose to throw themselves from the eighth or ninth floors. Read More 
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Birthday

It’s the day of my 82nd birthday and I feel privileged to have had so many good wishes from friends and from my constructed, chosen families. What does it feel like to be 82? Not much different from a score of years preceding this one. But physically I realize that I no longer have that light step with which I once walked—and danced. I can step. I can walk long distances without pain or discomfort and usually my balance is decent. But as I look at young people walking, I try to remember what it was like not to think about the act itself, not to focus on the act itself to keep my balance from wandering. Read More 
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Dogsitting Yoya

It’s Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, November 25, 2010, and I’m smiling because I have a visitor who is consistently amusing—and demanding. She’s a small five-year old Maltese named Yoya, who belongs to Don Thomas and Jorge Cao, and who comes to live with me whenever they travel. So she’s here for a long weekend, and I am smiling, and occasionally even laughing at her antics. Read More 

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