The Free Speech Movement Cafe, Berkeley

Whatever your views on balancing protections for free speech and against hate speech, we all have an obligation to get our facts straight. Yes, as a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, I understand how reality can be manipulated. Still, according to a responsible source, the facts point to last week’s violence on the University of California, Berkeley campus as being incited primarily by people who were not students or faculty at the university.

Let’s go back to 1964 and the birth of the Free Speech Movement at Cal. The original FSM coalition focused on allowing political parties of all stripes to distribute political information on campus, something that we now take for granted. Over 800 people occupied the administration’s main offices (Sproul Hall) and were jailed to make that happen. No one set out to break windows and damage buildings. When a police car drove onto Sproul Plaza to arrest a student, scores of other students on the Plaza merely sat down, preventing the patrol car from leaving. […]

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This first week in May brings to mind the liberation of the concentration camps at the end of World War II. The Nazis had exterminated an estimated 11 million people because of political or religious affiliations, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disabilities.

Six million of these people were Jews.

Some were members of my family.

I have yet to write about those Holocaust years, although The Ninth Day (companion novel to Blue Thread and the forthcoming Seven Stitches) spirals between the free speech protestors in 1964 Berkeley and the Jewish granddaughter of Rashi in 1099 Paris, in the aftermath of the Crusader attack on the Jews of Mainz. The story touches on survival and guilt, on speaking up, and on the power of song.

The main character in The Ninth Day speaks up as little as possible to avoid stuttering.  She would have admired Aaron, the boy who stutters in Anna Olswanger’s Greenhorn. […]

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In case I haven’t mentioned it before, the Janey II building is under construction right next door to the original Janey apartment building. As you can see from this picture, there’s all-done Janey on one side and work-in-progress Janey on the other. Will they be identical? Probably not. I figure the blueprints are very similar, but the builders learned a bunch from constructing the first apartment building, and they’ll use that knowledge in building the second.

That’s how I feel about my companion novels. Book Two aka The Ninth Day is similar to Book One aka Blue Thread. Both have similar blueprints. Time-traveling Serakh appears and intertwines two teenage girls living centuries apart. Book Three aka Book Three shares in that blueprint, although one time period is in the past and the other is yet to be. What I learned in writing Book One went into writing Book Two. What I learned from them both is going into Book Three. […]

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Today I put aside my competition with the construction crew of The Janey II. No way can I write the next scene in Book Three, as I remember Margot Adler, who took time from her life last year to write a review of my most recent book, The Ninth Day. She called the story “riveting.” Who could ask for more?

Still, I did.

I was hoping to meet Margot in person this fall during the reunion of participants in the 1964 Free Speech Movement. I wanted to thank her again, this time in person. I wanted her to autograph one of her books, Heretic’s Heart. I wanted, and I wanted, and I wanted.

Margot and I are not destined to meet in this lifetime, as she died yesterday. From what I understand of Margot’s Wiccan beliefs, she has made the crossing into another aspect of the continuum which, now that I think of it, is not so different from the universe-eternity olam I write about in Blue Thread and The Ninth Day. […]

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The construction crew for the Janey II is done with their major drilling work, and so am I…pretty much. I’ve finished most of the foundational research for both halves of Book Three: Istanbul in the 1500s and Portland in 2059. I’m still having a few heart-to-heart “discussions” with my main characters, but that’s for another blog post. This one deals with a foundational part of Book Three that I want to be solid, solid, solid. The prologue.

Look at all that rebar. Look at all those braces. Look at the giant hose pouring cement. That’s how solid I want the prologue to be. It’s in at least its fifth version now, and I’m still not satisfied. That’s why the Viva Scriva critique group will be reviewing it yet again this week. See all those construction workers? I imagine them as my Scrivas: Addie, Amber, Liz, Melissa, Nicole, and Sabina. Have at it, ladies! […]

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This Monday, December 16, 2013, at 7 pm,  the Blue Thread universe will celebrate the launch of The Ninth Day by zooming down to a single spot on the olam: 732 NW 19th Avenue, Portland, Oregon. JOIN US! It’s officially the Koehler House, named for the German family who first lived there, but for me the angular blue-gray structure is the real-world inspiration for Miriam Josefsohn’s home in Blue Thread, a companion novel to The Ninth Day. And it’s still filled with my imaginary friends.

In the 1912 portion of Blue Thread, Miriam spends about half of her time in the house on 19th and Johnson. She sews money into her petticoats in her bedroom and washes off biblical sand in the bathroom. She argues with her parents in the parlor and disappears from the kitchen to travel back thousands of years through time and space. […]

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This year, Thanksgiving Day coincides with the start of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Suddenly, bingo! We have the menurkey (a combination of a turkey and a nine-branched menorah). We have recipes that feature both cuisines and we have greeting cards galore.

The two holidays came close in 1964, as I found out when I wrote The Ninth Day. Hanukkah started on the Sunday after Thanksgiving then. I hear-tell that the next time the two holidays mesh as well as they do in 2013 will be about 70,000 years from now. Really? That may be, but there are lots of instances when holidays to coincide. This happens when one holiday has a fixed date on the solar calendar and the other moves with a lunar or other calendar, or when both holidays move based on two different calendars. Not long ago, the holy month of Ramadan started at the same time as Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. […]

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I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with Dan Sadowsky, of Oregon Public Broadcasting. Dan read The Ninth Day in record time, spent half a morning with me at Tea Zone, and showed his humor and patience while photographing me in the North Park Blocks. Here’s the resulting Q&A. Why Calvin Coolidge? Dan knows. Read the interview, and you’ll know, too.  I’ll be reading from The Ninth Day at the Oregon Jewish Museum on Nov. 12 at 7:30 and Powell’s-Cedar Hills on Nov. 15 at 7pm. And that’s no lie. […]

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I remember when I was the person on this jetty, the girl who was happiest when she was mute and terrified of reading aloud in class. I remember going to my first speech therapist when I was five and my last speech therapist when I was in my forties. The girl on the jetty will be a part of me as I read passages from The Ninth Day at the Oregon Jewish Museum on November 12th and at Powell’s Cedar Hills Crossing on November 15th, passages in which a stuttering teen struggles to spit out a coherent sentence. I wish that I could have told the girl on the jetty so many years ago that one day she’d feel eager and honored to read aloud. And yet, if I hadn’t been that girl, I doubt that I could have written The Ninth Day. I certainly would not have felt competent to make Miriam Hope Friis my main character. […]

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