Anthology Depicts Disability Culture

Abbie-1

Dozen: The Best of Breath and Shadow

Edited by Chris Kuell

Copyright 2016

 

Breath and Shadow is an online magazine featuring poems, stories, and essays by authors with disabilities. Pieces here focus mainly on what it’s like to have a disability and how others treat a person with a disability. This anthology showcases the best work that appeared in the publication over the past twelve years.

It contains dark pieces such as Susan M. Silver’s short story, “I’ll Be Looking at the Moon,” in which the protagonist is dealing with a serious illness. In contrast, there’s Amy Krout-Horn’s essay, “Who Dresses You?” in which she talks about a humorous way she answered this narrow-minded question from a waitress.

Many pieces portray the relationship between a person with a disability and health care professionals such as Lizz Schumer’s essay, “Peace Protest,” in which she talks about convalescing after a fall and wondering if she inherited her grandfather’s brain cancer. Then there’s Chris Kuell’s short story, “The Interview,” in which a blind woman retaliates against a prospective employer who is unwilling to even consider the possibility of hiring her.

I would like to have seen fewer dark pieces. Nevertheless, I think this is a must-read for everyone, especially those in a profession that requires dealing directly with others: waitresses, doctors, nurses, cab drivers, etc. You don’t have to read the whole thing cover to cover. You could read perhaps one or two pieces a day. If you’re one of those narrow-minded persons who take a dim view of what people with disabilities can do, this anthology will force you to think outside the box. If you’re a person with a disability, you’ll read this and realize you’re not the only one. The people in this book, whether real or made-up, will speak to you of their experiences.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Review: The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season

Abbie-1The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Copyright 2016.

 

This collection of short fiction, poetry, and essays spans from Thanksgiving through New Year’s and beyond. In “The Thanksgiving Phone,” a blind woman finds a cell phone belonging to another woman whose son is in the military, serving overseas. In the title piece, a widow gets her long-awaited Christmas wish and more.

In “The Puppies of New Year’s Eve,” a dog breeder and a woman who buys two of his puppies discover they have a lot in common on a stormy New Year’s Eve. The author’s essays and poetry explore her holiday experiences while growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, adventures with her guide dog, and other topics. Instructions for playing a Thanksgiving poetry game and making Christmas cards are included.

I met Alice several years ago when she joined Behind Our Eyes, a writers’ group to which I belong. She’s a delightful lady who has inspired my own writing and helped and supported me and other writers.

Most of the material in her book has appeared on her blog over the years, but I enjoyed reading it again. For a second time, I was indignant after reading accounts of people in Catholic churches refusing to shake hands with homeless men during Mass and of one woman who told a homeless man he didn’t belong there. Again, I was moved almost to tears when a soldier serving overseas was reunited with his family at Thanksgiving. Many pieces in this book are appropriate for all ages, so I suggest families make it an annual tradition to read at least one of the stories together during this time of the year.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Dream Closet (Fiction)

Monique let herself into David’s apartment with the key she still had, although they broke up the week before. She patted her stomach, as a wave of doubt hit her. Yes, she was doing the right thing, she told herself. David was the father of her child, but he was too down to earth. An accountant who made a lot of money, he would probably expect her to be a stay at home wife and mother.

On the other hand, Mike was cool, a singer/songwriter with a band who hoped to reach the top of the bestseller list one day. If she married him, he wouldn’t care what she did as long as she made him happy in bed. If he recorded an album and went on tour, she could travel with him, and that would be fun for her and the baby. Now, all she needed to do was collect the picture David refused to return and leave the key, and she would be done with him.

The photo still sat on the mantle. It was taken several months earlier while David and Monique were on the beach. Monique gave her cell phone to a passing tourist who agreed to snap the shot. As a surprise for David’s birthday, she had it printed and framed.

She picked it up and studied it one last time, her in her purple bikini with long dark hair cascading in waves down her back, and him in his black swimming trunks, as they embraced on the sand. She was about to put it in her purse and replace it with the key when she was startled to hear David’s voice in the hall outside the apartment followed by a woman’s voice she thought she recognized. She set the photo back on the mantle, made a mad dash for the living room closet, and stepped inside, closing the door behind her just as the key turned in the lock on the apartment door.

Enveloped by coats in the closet’s dark interior, she heard the unmistakable voice of her best friend Lynne. “I can’t believe I’m doing this. All I wanted was to tell you the truth about Monique and the baby.”

Monique couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Lynne was supportive the week before when Monique told her what she planned to do. “Oh, that’s so hard for you,” Lynne said. That was what she always said when Monique was going through tough times.

“Don’t think about that now,” said David. “Sit down. Take a load off. I’ll fix you a drink. What would you like?”

“Oh, just a Scotch and soda is fine, and don’t mind if I do take off these shoes. My feet are killing me.”

Monique heard ice clinking in glasses and other sounds that told her David was making drinks in the kitchen. “You really ought to get rid of that picture,” said Lynne.

“You mean the one on the mantle of me and Monique? I think I’ll hold onto it for a while.”

“David, she lied to you about your child. I don’t know why I’ve been friends with her for so long. All she wants to do is have a good time. She has no sense of responsibility whatsoever.”

Monique strained in an attempt to see more through the keyhole and barely made out David coming into the living room with two glasses. “You’re right,” he said, as he set them on the coffee table. “Now, come here, you silly goofball.”

“Not with her smiling down on us from your mantle,” said Lynne. Monique heard a resounding crash.

“Oh well, I didn’t like that picture, anyway,” said David.

Tears filled Monique’s eyes, as she heard the sound of the frame’s pieces being swept into a dust pan. “How about some music?” he said a minute later.

“Great idea,” said Lynne.

The strains of “Only Time” by Enya soon filled the room. It was playing on the stereo the night David proposed to Monique a month earlier. David knew that and so did Lynne. She couldn’t see them through the keyhole and assumed they were snuggled on the couch with their drinks.

“So how did such a sensible woman like you end up being friends with a worldly girl like Monique?” asked David.

“I’m not that unworldly,” said Lynne with a laugh. “I like to go to clubs once in a while. Remember? Monique introduced us at The Jaybird where Mike Evans and his band were playing.”

“That’s right,” said David with a chuckle. “What was I thinking?”

“Monique and I have been friends since childhood. She’s changed over the years, and I didn’t see that until last week when she told me she wanted to marry Mike even though you’re her baby’s father. She says you’re too conservative, and Mike’s in the moment. I guess I can’t blame her. She had a rough childhood. Her dad left without a word when she was about five or six, and her mother’s an alcoholic.”

“Monique told me all that. You’d think she would want her kid to have a more stable family. What kind of life is this kid going to have with neither parent holding a steady job, waiting for that big recording contract that might never come?”

“I don’t know,” said Lynne with a sigh.

“Well, I’m not about to stand by and let that happen, especially if the kid is mine. I have an appointment with a lawyer tomorrow morning. I don’t know what I can do legally, but I’m sure as hell gonna find out.”

Monique gasped, then clamped a hand over her mouth, hoping she hadn’t been heard. ”There should be a way you can force her to have a blood test to determine if the baby is yours,” said Lynne. “Who knows? It could be Mike’s. Perish the thought.”

“Let’s not talk about it anymore,” said David. “Dance with me.”

The couple came into view through the keyhole. Monique gazed in fascination, as their bodies swayed to the music. Lynne said, “Oh David, I’ve always loved you since the night Monique introduced us. I didn’t want to steal you away from her until now.”

“I love you, too, but I’m probably on the rebound from Monique.”

“That doesn’t matter now. Ummmm!” Monique felt sick, as she heard David and Lynne kissing just inches from the closet door.

“Good morning,” said the radio announcer. “It’s thirty-one minutes after six on a sunny Monday, fifty-five degrees, looking for a high near eighty.”

Monique leaped out of bed and dashed to the bathroom where she hung over the toilet and let it all out. “Damn this morning sickness.”

David was there, placing a cool hand on her forehead. “Hey babe, I’m sorry,” he said.

“I’ll be okay,” she said, leaning into him, feeling the reassuring warmth of his body and pressing her face against his. “I wish we didn’t have to go to work today.”

“You have a good reason to stay home,” he said, kissing her. “and I don’t have anything at the office that can’t wait till tomorrow.”

“You mean that?”

“Sure,” said David. “Come on, let’s go back to bed.”

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The above story appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

 

Review: The Dance House

Note: I’ve decided to review books as I read them instead of doing them all at once. This will make my life easier, and the additional posts might attract more readers.

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The Dance House: Stories from Rosebud

by Joseph Marshall III

Copyright 1998

 

Since Joseph Marshall was the keynote speaker at this year’s annual Wyoming Writers conference, I decided to read one of his books. The Dance House contains short stories and essays about Indian life. The stories take place during the earlier part of the 20th century. In “Oliver’s Silver Dollar,” a young Lakota Sioux, speaking little English, is sent to a mental institution where he stays for thirty years because of a misunderstanding over one word. In “1965 Continental,” a white sheriff persecutes an Indian man because he believes he stole a fancy car. Other tales are about Native Americans surviving blizzards, dealing with whites who discriminate against them, and sharing wisdom and traditions with their grandchildren. The title story deals with the aftermath of a law allowing white men to claim Indian land. This collection also contains essays about Indians’ heritage, culture, and dealings with white oppressors.

The stories in this book took me back to times and places I hadn’t explored much since I was a teen’-ager in Mrs. Wright’s English class at Sheridan High School in Wyoming. If she were still teaching, I’m sure she would assign this book to her students. We all should read books like this to understand how we, as a nation, did a disservice to Native Americans by forcing them onto reservations, placing their children in government-run boarding schools, and commandeering their land. Remember that Indians were here before any of the first settlers came to this country in the 1600’s.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

 

February 2016 Reviews

News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories by Jennifer Haigh. Copyright 2013.

 

From the author of Baker Towers, a book I read a few years ago, comes a collection of short stories, most of which take place in the coal mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania, the same location as Baker Towers. In one story, a girl from Bakerton works for a Jewish family in New York before World War II. In another, an English teacher in Bakerton reminisces about one of her students during World War II.

I liked Baker Towers, and I enjoyed these stories. Many of them have some of the same characters including those from Baker Towers. Most are about families dealing with tragedies and/or secrets. For the most part, they are in chronological order from before World War II to the present day. In the last story, Joyce, from Baker Towers, mourns her husband’s passing and reminisces about her life with him and their children. Being a widow, I was touched by this one the most. To learn more about Jennifer Haigh and her books, click here.

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My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family with Recipes by Dawn Lerman. Copyright 2015.

 

When I heard about this book a couple of months ago on National Public Radio, the title intrigued me. My own dad was fat, but unlike this author’s father, my dad didn’t obsess about dieting but eventually managed to get his weight under control.

Dawn Lerman is a certified nutritionist and contributor to the New York Times Well blog and the founder of Magnificent Mommies, specializing in personal, corporate, and school-based education. Her father was a well-known ad executive responsible for such slogans as “Leggo My Eggo” and “Coke is It.”

In My Fat Dad, she tells the story of how her father’s obesity and obsession with weight loss affected her life. She grew up in a Jewish family who lived in Chicago for about the first eight years of her life before moving to New York in 1972. Because her mother, a so-called aspiring actress, was too lazy to prepare meals, and her father was always on one diet or another, the family rarely ate a home-cooked meal together. At one time, her father lost a lot of weight after attending a Duke University fat camp in Durham, South Carolina, but eventually gained it back. Her mother berated her for this and that and said she was too sensitive when she expressed her feelings. She describes how her grandmother fueled her passion for good food and in later years supported her interest in cooking healthful meals.

Several years after the family moved to New York, Dawn’s younger sister April was cast in a traveling production of Annie and later the movie as well as other shows. Their mother traveled with her and was away from home a great deal during Dawn’s adolescent years. Dawn encouraged her sister to act because of her own inadequacies as a singer or dancer. She talks about how she prepared meals for her father when her mother and sister were away and describes the loneliness she felt when not in school or with friends since her father also traveled a lot as part of his advertising career. She also touches on her coming of age and involvement in New York City’s night club scene as well as her parents’ divorce and feeling stuck in the middle because both her father and mother demanded her loyalty.

In the epilog, she describes her father’s lung cancer diagnosis after she had her first child. She explains how she researched a correlation between food and healing and how her entire family, including her grandmother and uncles, came together to rally successfully for his survival. Twelve years later, the book ends with a phone conversation between Dawn and her father in which he announces he’s starting yet another diet. The book includes recipes for all the food mentioned, and there’s a lot of food here so you don’t want to read this on an empty stomach.

I would like to have learned more. What were Dawn’s college years like? Since her parents were divorced, did she spend her vacations with her mother or father? To order the book from Amazon, click here. You can read an interview of Dawn about the book on the Huffington Post site.

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Hotel Vendome by Danielle Steel. Copyright 2011.

 

The Hotel Vendome is a posh establishment in New York City. The fictional story surrounding it spans over twenty years. When Hugh Martin first bought the place, he was married with a two-year-old daughter, Elouise. When Elouise was four, her mother ran off with a rock star, filed for divorce, and didn’t return until over twenty years later when Elouise was married.

As we read this book, we watch Elouise grow up in the hotel, surrounded by mostly female employees who develop a bond with her but don’t quite take her mother’s place. She spends many happy hours sneaking into the ballroom during weddings and helping the maids. In high school, she takes a serious interest in managing the facility. After graduation, she decides to go to the same school in Switzerland where her father earned his credentials, much to his chagrin, but he gives his blessing.

After she leaves, Hugh, who has sworn never to become seriously involved with women again, develops a relationship with Natalie, a professional decorator he hires to do the hotel’s suites. As they become closer, Hugh hesitates to tell Elouise about Natalie until a year later when she returns home for her internship at the hotel. She is stunned by the news, thinking it would just be her and her father for the rest of their lives. For six months, she’s barely civil to her father and Natalie but comes around just in time for their wedding. Several months later, Natalie is pregnant with triplets, and again, Elouise is in shock but comes around more quickly. Despite other complications, the book has a happy ending.

This book reminds me of how glamorous it would be to live in a place like the Hotel Vendome and not worry about cooking, cleaning, or even making your own bed. Of course it would be too expensive so I wouldn’t pursue this lifestyle. However, for the time it took to read the book, I was transported to a wonderful place where I could relax in a luxurious suite, enjoy a box of decadent hotel chocolates, and order meals from room service. To sign up for a free monthly email newsletter and learn more about Danielle Steel, click here.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon

Water Color

The following short story was inspired by a poetry prompt. Last month in our third Thursday group meeting, we were given a suggestion to write a poem in a different dialect. After spending six months in Fargo, North Dakota, and listening to A Prairie Home Companion for years, the North Dakota Norwegian way of speaking came to mind. What started as a poem turned into flash fiction. Click this link to hear me read it.

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WHEN TWO NORTH DAKOTA NORWEGIANS WATER COLOR

 

 

In their retirement,       Nils and Astrid spent a lot of time painting since their children were grown and scattered across the country. They took art classes at the senior center in Fargo and worked on their assignments together at home. Their love of painting didn’t keep them from bickering, but they always made up.

That June day in 2015 was no different. They were sitting in their back yard. The early morning sun shone in a cloudless sky. Birds sang, and the flower bushes’ scent wafted across the lawn. As Nils dipped his brush into the small container of red paint a little too vigorously, it splattered onto the white picnic table. “ufta, oh darn,” he said.

His wife looked up and frowned at the splotch of red against white. “Well then, you spilled it, you clean it up.”

“So how come you’re so cranky then?”

“Cranky, I’m not cranky. I’m not the one who spilled the paint.”

“Yes you are. You’re cranky because I dripped a little red paint on your nice white table.”

“Who says I’m cranky? I’m not. So clean up that paint then.”

“You are cranky. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be so mad about me spilling the paint then.”

“Oh shut up then about that paint and clean it up already.”

“Why should I? You made me spill it then.”

“I did no such thing then.”

“Yes you did. You distracted me.”

“Oh ufta tufta, you poor thing. You can’t multi-task so you blame me then.”

“Yeah, so if you’re gonna be so gung ho about it, you can clean it up.”

“Me, I didn’t spill the paint. You did.”

“Yeah, but you made me spill it.”

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

“Did not, but just to shut you up, I’ll…” In her haste to pull herself off the picnic bench, she knocked over the small container of water between them. “Oh ufta tufta, look what you made me do. Now, we got a real mess on our hands, thanks to you.”

“Me, you’re the one who knocked over the water.”

“Yeah, well, you distracted me then.”

“Well, now you know how I felt when you distracted me, and I spilled the paint so let’s just get some paper towels and clean this mess up together, huh?” Nils stood, turned, and embraced his wife. She relaxed, and a moment later, they kissed.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon

One More Review: Gustus Dei

Gustus Dei by Monica Byrne. Copyright 2015 && 2016.

 

This short story was published in two literary journals over the past year and is now available as a free download in various formats here. I ran across it on Twitter last night. Since I’m not sure how long it’ll be available, I decided to post this now instead of with next month’s reviews.

The story’s time and location aren’t clear, but because of the lack of modern conveniences and the mention of native Americans, I’m assuming it’s in North America during the 18th or 19th century. A novice nun in a convent grapples with the idea that everything is corrupt and the necessity of being pure at all times. Parts of the story, including the ending, are surreal.

Although my family’s not Catholic, I’ve always been interested in the religion. I was in awe of my friend next door who went to a parochial school and called her teacher Sister. When as a teen-ager, I took an interest in attending a Catholic college in Kansas, miles away from my home in Wyoming, my father said, “Oh, you want to be a nun. Well, if you enter a convent, you’ll have to give up Dr. Pepper.”

I did not want to be a nun, but that didn’t stop me from being interested in them. The turn of events in this story fascinated me, and I wish I knew the significance of the title. I’m assuming it’s Latin but couldn’t find a definition. To learn more about Monica Byrne and her work, click here.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon