November Book Discussion: Bone Gap

bonegap-laura-ruby-young-adulters-book-club-becoming-jessica

Oh man, you guys, I think this is my favorite book that we have read for this book club. There were just so many things to love about it: themes of inner vs outer beauty, male and female power, magical realism, beautiful prose, fabulous characters. Really, I could go on and on. Do you get the point that I loved Bone Gap?!

So here we go, diving into the November discussion. This is my second last audio discussion before the baby comes! Crazy pants. Hope you guys enjoy it. Remember to leave your comments below and check back to see what other readers thought!

Quick summary:

  • themes of external vs internal beauty
    • all the men who think Roza owes them something because she is beautiful and get upset when she doesn’t want them
    • Finn’s prosopagnosia and how it relates to his relationship with Petey
      • Isn’t that what love is, seeing things that others can’t?
    • how Sean respects her wishes and that automatically puts him on a different level than the other men she has encountered before
  • all the ways in which people leave: Didi, Hugh, Petey’s dad, Roza
  • Finn and Sean’s relationship
  • the magical realism elements were limited but pretty seamless, except for the random horse riding through weird, magical worlds, which I thought was a bit strange
  • the beautiful, beautiful prose that created such a rich and wonderful atmosphere and setting

(Remember, December’s book selection is If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo. You can find the other Young Adulters Book Club posts here.)

November Book Discussion: Bone Gap

creativity + fear

I have been thinking a lot about creativity lately. Creativity and fear, in particular. There are a great many things that I want to try, do, make. They burn beneath my skin. But I let fear keep them there. I would rather spontaneously combust from the collective heat of all of my undone projects and unexplored ideas than put something imperfect out into the world.

Above all else, I fear rejection. I fear being told that I am not good enough, that I am not worthy. That I do not deserve love. The idea of making art and having it not be good enough for other people, even for me, makes me nauseous with terror.

For our baby shower, I put out a giant canvas that I’ve had for several years. When I hold it in front of my body, only my head and feet show. I put it out on the island with a bunch of paint and asked people to create a communal art piece that we would then hang in our daughter’s room. A lot of people were overwhelmed by this small act of creativity (aren’t we all?). “But I’m not an artist, Jessica.” “But … what would I even do?” “But I don’t paint.” My dad practiced his birds on a scrap of paper beforehand; they were literally the M-shaped birds that we all drew as children, though my father is capable of drawing a pretty realistic tiger. My mother painted an off-kilter diamond and then waved at it vaguely, asking one of our friends, “Do something with that, maybe?” (It seems that creativity and fear go hand in hand for a great many people.)

In the end, more than half of our guests contributed and the end result was a colorful, chaotic creation that looked like it was made by a bunch of manic kindergartners. It was far from a masterpiece, but it was made with great love.

There was a lot of white space, though, and it was disjointed. Bryan said it made him feel anxious. I thought I would add to it, fill in some of the white space, balance it out somehow, while preserving what our friends and family had poured themselves into. Had overcome their fears to create.

I put it off, though. What, exactly, should I do? I was deeply afraid of ruining what had been made that day. So it sat on a table in the basement, where I never really had to see it.

I thought about it, though. A lot. It wrapped itself around my brain like some kind of strangler vine. My anxiety grew. The truth was that I didn’t like it the way it was. I liked parts of it and I liked what it represented, the idea of it, but the canvas itself? I had no desire to hang it in the nursery.

A few weeks ago, finally, I decided to do something about it. There was resistance; the effort it took to actually heave myself off the couch after I’d announced I was going to paint was monumental, even by third trimester standards.

I did a warm-up painting, which I ended up liking quite a lot. Then I turned to the big canvas. Still, I had no idea what to do. Still, my mind was a complete blank. I could not picture anything to do with it that didn’t involve painting over the whole thing and starting again from scratch.

So I decided to just…start. I squirted some purple paint onto my palette and I just…started. The more I painted, though, the more I panicked. The more I looked at it and thought, “Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck, I have really messed this up.”

After about ten minutes, I stopped. I took a step back to survey the work that I had done, and my heart sank. I hadn’t loved it before, no, but now…well, now, I really hated it.

I was frustrated and angry. See? This is why I don’t take risks! This is why I don’t make things! Because they end up looking like this.

I wish there was some great moral to this story. Like, “I took a risk and it paid off in spades and now I have this amazing thing for our nursery.” But it doesn’t. It didn’t. I don’t. I don’t know yet how I am going to fix it. If I am going to fix it. It is still sitting on that table in the basement, my palette abandoned beside it, some brightly colored tissue paper next to that which I thought I might glue onto it. Just to make the whole thing look a little more disjointed and chaotic. Bryan said he would try to help. And maybe that’s the point: failure is just an opportunity to try again. And again and again and again. So answer the call to make art, even if you fuck it up, even if it makes you sick with fear, because there will always be another chance to try again. The fear is our signal that this is something important, this is something worth doing. And really, what is the alternative? Spontaneous combustion. That’s what.

creativity + fear

the burden of knowledge

Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t a feminist.

I wish that I could bury myself in ignorance and apathy. That I could pretend that the world’s injustices neither matter to me nor touch me at all. That I don’t care that we live in a patriarchal rape culture that systematically devalues women (among many other marginalized groups). But I can’t. I want better for myself. I want better for everyone. And now, more than ever, I want better for my daughter. 

I wasn’t surprised when the ultrasound tech told us that our baby was a girl. For the entirety of my pregnancy, I had been telling everyone who would listen that exact thing. “I have absolutely nothing to back this up, but I am convinced that it is a girl.” With the confirmation, though, came an almost immediate, suffocating tidal wave of terror.

We are having a girl.

Oh God, we are having a girl.

Oh God, how am I ever going to prepare my daughter for the world that we are bringing her into?

The wage gap. Catcalling. Brock Turner. Donald Trump. I looked around me and saw monsters around every corner, in every closet, under every bed. I wanted to curl my arms around my belly and tell my daughter to stay in utero forever, where she’d be safe. Where I could keep her safe.

Because the fact of the matter is that I have no idea how I am going to prepare her for this world. I don’t know how to prepare myself for this world most days. For the crushing despair that I feel on an almost daily basis just when I open my social media accounts. How am I ever going to raise her to believe that she breathes fire when the society that we live in is so hellbent on keeping her small? I want my girl to be fierce. Unafraid. Powerful. I want her to have every opportunity in the world, to go through life believing that there is no one more capable than she is. It would be so much easier if I could look around at the world and shrug. Oh well, that’s just the way the world is, it is just something we have to deal with.

I refuse to accept the world the way it is; I know better than that. I won’t raise my daughter to accept it either.

I guess that is all I can do. Teach her not to accept the status quo. Teach her to use her voice. To be big. To take up space. To make the world a better place than she found it. A better place than we made for her. And that I’ll be right there beside her, doing the same.

I have a few ideas for this that I am already bandying about with a friend. I will let you know if and when something more concrete blossoms into existence. In the meantime, tell me, what do you do to make the world around you seem a little less bleak? (Especially in times like these, when the darkest timeline seems to have come true and Donald freaking Trump is the next president of the so-called “greatest” country in the world.)

the burden of knowledge