My Checkered Past
I write novels, short stories, essays and notebook entries. I’m currently writing a memoir which I call an ethnography of writing. I grew up in South Carolina and Georgia. An editor once referred to my childhood as hardscrabble, but things only got hardscrabble later.
I went to the Philippines during its revolution. I was arrested and deported from the country of Antigua, along with my boyfriend, now my husband, who was working for a local organization called The Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement. I lived in the woods, off the grid, in Oregon’s Coast Range Forest. We took a vial of liquid acid to Antigua. I lived the quiet and reasonable life of an elementary school librarian. I struggled with drugs. This is not chronological. I ran away from home when I was a teenager. I panhandled in the Tenderloin. I lived with a male prostitute in New York City. I picked peaches in California. I was a union rep. I had kids. My boyfriend and I worked with our community to protect the valley where we lived, Tenmile Creek, Oregon from logging, and we succeeded, which is a small miracle. I worked in a rock and roll bar. I told Luther Allison if he married me, I would be Alison Allison. The Tenmile experience showed me that regular people, people with few resources, actually have power, and if there's a more important thing to know, I can't think of it.
Sometimes it seems like all we should be doing right now is everything we can do to say no to the loss of our democracy, no to hate, no to capitalism destroying our beautiful world, no to fascism. Fascism is the right word. But still we carry on. We love our families and go to work. We dream and imagine and plan, but also, we do what we can. Practicing kindness, even if it can be managed, isn't enough. Our phone calls and marches and meetings and organizing aren’t enough and neither are our words. But maybe when you put it all together, all of us and everything, it’s like a life, you put it together and out of all the disparate pieces, you get something that works.