Monthly Archives: November 2022

A Letter for Anaya

My review of the book Akata Witch

By Nnedi Okorafor

(includes spoilers!)

I finished listening to the book. I’m sad. I get sad when good books end. (But there are two more in the The Nsibidi Script Series so…YAY.) I was very surprised that none of our four protagonists died, but also I’m super relieved!

If you haven’t read the book, here’s why you should read it: 1) It’s about being in between or both – She is Nigerian and American. She is Black and Albino. 2) I’m 51, and I’ve been reading about male main characters for a long time. This main character is smart, empathetic, curious, mindful, creative, and female. Her female-ness isn’t the most important thing about her, but it IS important for us all to learn from thoughtful, bright young women.

Favorite parts: I love the nicknames. I love that there is a person named “Calculus” and someone named “Sugar Cream!” Also, I used to have a pal named “Sonny,” so I love that name. I always think about whether someone named Sunny is sunny. In this book, I did wonder if the author named her Sunny also because she describes her skin as “yellow-ish.” I do also know a funny toddler named “Sonny” like Sonny Bono!

Silliest part: I thought it was funny that coins fell out of the sky when they learned. I’m glad we are rewarding learning, but also – the way the coins drop reminded me of a video game.

Sometimes I think about how people with “magical” abilities are supposed to – and often can – hide their abilities. In real life, most people’s disabilities are super visible. For example, everyone can see Sonny’s albino skin. She can’t hide it, and people treat her differently – sometimes very badly – because of it. Now, she can use her beautiful magic, but they demand she hides it. (See also: the way superheroes have “normal” identities.) Also, some people treat invisible disabilities like ADHD or Depression with impatience and sometimes disbelief and rudeness!

Also, sorry – this is negative, but it’s hard to tell the difference (maybe just for me) between a special, beautiful, magical town and a ghetto. In 2022, I try to love Jewish places. Aren’t I really lucky to be in a Jewish place where people “get me” and where people “speak my language” and I can live on Jewish time?! Yay. 

You can read more about this historical issues here – , AND You can see more info about this historical conflict here –

On the other hand, I used to visit a neighborhood of Ethiopian immigrants to volunteer in Jerusalem, but it also reminded me of when European countries and their original home in Ethiopia would restrict where Jewish people were ALLOWED to live and work. Some people told me – it was just a fast way to make sure all the immigrants had safe homes. Regardless, it’s not like that anymore. Here is some background about that neighborhood – Givat HaMatos

Also, it reminds me of the women’s sections in traditional synagogues. So lovely for me to be surrounded by women and girls, but I get MAD when I remember WHY the men created the sections in the first place.

Here are two more motifs I think about a lot:

MOTIF #1a – I don’t like the idea of “Don’t tell your parents.” 

Here is some more info about the difference between a bad secret and a good surprise

I get that – in books and movies, sometimes the kids don’t tell the adults about plans because then the adults will stop them from fighting evil. I get that –  in fiction –  that is an exciting way to set up a cool adventure for kids. In real life, it is the job of the adults who have kids’ best interest at heart to figure out the best way to protect you from bad stuff. 

MOTIF #1b – a corollary – instead of not telling their parents – their parents are dead or gone?! Oy vey.

I know that in a lot of kids’ literature the parents die. I get that in kids’ literature this is a theme. Like Bambi.

Then, the kids are mostly on their own or stuck with bad guardians in bad situations. 

First of all, so sad.

Second, I feel really uncomfortable telling kids not to trust adults! I’m not saying that all adults are great. (They are not.) However, I do not like secrets. I think surprises can be cool, but I think all kids need a few different kind, trustworthy adults to help them get through life. Not just crossing streets when they are little and other stuff like that, but also helping kids see things from different perspectives at different times. And to remind kids that what seems permanent might be temporary. AND ENCOURAGING KIDS! 

I read somewhere but I cannot remember where – probably way back in college – that most kid literature indulges in a fantasy life where the kids are actually part of something bigger and cooler than their regular lives of healthy breakfasts, bedtimes, school rules, etc. That kids imagine they are really princesses or wizards. That kids dream about leaving their parents behind and finding their true, magical, royal, special purpose, but I do also know that Sonny wishes she could know her mother, aunt, and grandmother better. That Sonny wishes that her dad could be kinder and more interested in her life, the way he is interested in her brothers. 

MOTIF #2 – I actually really like the idea that kids have special abilities and can save the universe. AS LONG AS THERE IS REAL TEAMWORK. I love teamwork. 

I love teachers, books, authors who tell kids – You have strength and creativity and ideas that you can use to make the world better – no matter your age!

This motif is part of why I love Stephen King books so much. King loves rescuing kids with special abilities. He loves a group of kids who come together to protect each other (and usually their town and the whole world) from anything bad or evil. 

Stephen King loves kids and magic. He loves bikes and friendships. He loves when kids who are suffering work together to make their world better. He believes that kids can fix bad stuff, and it always makes me feel better.

One of the main things I’ve learned from Stephen King is that some adults can still see “magic.” I used to worry that my ability to connect with kids was weird or bad – as if I am not growing up properly. My dad says that, when I was in 5th grade, I told him I didn’t want to ever have kids. He thought I would change my mind, but I didn’t. 

In the book IT, the adults who didn’t become parents retained the ability to see and conquer evil. I really like this idea. I want to be an adult kids can trust to help them fight their battles against anything evil or scary.

Is Stephen King right for everyone? No. Some people cannot stand horror, and kids are too young to read most Stephen King books – even though I really think that some of his messages would be really healthy for kids to read. For adults who want to read Stephen King and other scary stuff, here is my gift to you!

My tips for the scary/gory parts!!

I used to never read/watch horror, but now I only read/watch horror. I have learned over and over that life is not about happy endings, perfect days, or perfect relationships. So much of the “happy” books and shows feel contrived to me now. Most days, only horror makes sense to me. I am not recommending this life/perspective. However, I have learned a lot that I think might help other people when they encounter scary stuff.

  1. Don’t read in the dark. Don’t read scary stuff alone. If you can look up from your book to a sunny spot or to peoplewatch, the fear can’t really take you over.
  2. Don’t close your eyes (especially if you are reading). Your imagination is way scarier and more detailed/real than anything the movie or tv studios can invent/produce. 
  3. Be curious. While whatever is happening in the book or on screen, if it freaks you out, think to yourself: How did they do that?! Because it’s never really the real thing. It’s never real blood. It’s corn syrup with food coloring! They aren’t really injuries. That’s make-up!
  4. Pretend you are in the middle of writing a review. Note down any good or bad lines of dialogue. Note which scenes work and which scenes look silly or fake.
  5. Sometimes, look away at something normal, like your slippers or your snack. Think to yourself: Isn’t it silly that peanut butter and celery can exist in the same world as this book/movie!?


That is the main thing!

WHY people are STILL sexist – October 10, 2018

[A letter I wrote to a friend.]

So, I’ve been thinking about your kid since you told me that she asked WHY people are STILL sexist. I really want to write her a letter but I’m afraid that I’m too ANGRY to write a polite, clean, appropriate letter. So, instead I’m going to write you my thinking now and then you can decide which parts the kids might want to read/know.

First, I want to acknowledge the fact that the STILL in the question is important. It’s hard for me to separate out the “original, ancient” causes of sexism from the present issues. Second, I think that people are STILL sexist for a lot of reasons and here are some of them. This is by no means an exhaustive list but I have a few reasons in my head since I got your text.

  1. People who have power are afraid of losing power.
  2. People are afraid of change. Even people who want change find change difficult. Take for example, a person who wants to move cities or change jobs. Even though they WANT that change and know in their head that it’s right or good, they still have a hard time with change because change is rough no matter what.
  3. Some people have been told their whole lives by society that they DESERVE the top spot. So our society has told white, straight, rich, men that they are the TOP of humanity in the United States of America. It’s hard for them to change their thinking. (My example of this is – I met with a bunch of liberal Jews to talk about Sarah and Hagar in the Hebrew Bible and the Quran. I told them that I thought Jews are trained to see Sarah in the best light – even though she was pretty mean to Hagar – and that as a result we are protective of her. They argued with me: “Oh no, we aren’t protective of Sarah.” But then as we got further and further into the conversation I realized that they were so protective of Sarah that they didn’t even know they were. They were trying but they needed even more help than I thought to open their minds.)
  4. Some people don’t realize how lucky they have it and how hard other people have it. So, that’s why people accuse people who are suffering of “acting” or of being “paid protestors.” If their whole lives, people are respectful of them, certain people don’t realize that that only is true for people who look like them or have money like them, etc.

Third, In terms of how sexism Got Started, there are a few theories:

  1. It is true that more women can get pregnant than men. So, in some times of their lives – pregnancy, nursing, etc. –  it is true that women need protection from society. Also, most men’s bodies are different from most women’s bodies so that – while women are built to withstand pain – many men seem built to hunt and travel and fight. I think that there is a short leap from “women need protection sometimes” to “women are weak and need men to tell them what to do and how to do it.” So, some of this original sexism might have to do with biology.
  2. Power scares people. The fact that women can get pregnant and give birth and nurse babies is all about their amazing power. And I think that some men may have been scared by this. Pain is scary.
  3. Change is scary. After puberty, men’s bodies don’t change so much but women’s bodies change every week of every month in cycles.
  4. Blood is scary. Women deal with blood a lot. They take care of babies and kids. They bleed every month. When they give birth, they bleed again. I think that maybe men thought that women’s connection to blood was scary.
  5. There are more theories, but we can’t do anything about them so we might as well move forward.

Fourth, here is the vocabulary word for the decade: KYRIARCHY.

Kyriarchy is a new word created by Dr. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. She has a PhD in bible and she knows a lot about ancient societies in Greece. Instead of trying to examine sexism and racism and classism and other kinds of prejudice separately, she recognized that all kinds of prejudices work together to create a kind of pyramid. So, white, rich, men, for example, are at the top of a lot of prejudices that put down people who aren’t white, aren’t rich, and aren’t men. So, when some people talk about “patriarchy,” they are only talking about sexism, but there is so much more that goes into it. And this is also part of why people are “still” sexist – because they might be more afraid of having their white kids in schools with kids of color than they are of having a sexist president.

Fifth, at this point I also think it’s important to talk about the word MISOGYNY.

  1. Some people don’t realize they are sexist. (For example, I hate when people talk about a book being seminal! Because the “germ,” the “embryo” comes way before the semen. So if you want to say something is first and best, then you really have to say it is GERMINAL not seminal. I also hate the word disseminate – why does everyone want to spread sperm around? Why can’t they just “distribute” information or “share” the resources?)
  2. Some people are sexist and they don’t care that it’s mean. Some people really believe that men are better/stronger/smarter. Some of those people are actually women. Boo.
  3. Some people are so scared or so self-centered that they actually HATE women. That is misogyny, hatred of women. And those people don’t usually change. It’s usually not worth interacting with the misogynists. However, it’s definitely worth it to warn people about misogyny.
  4. People who “think” that women are less or deserve less or need less aren’t evil. I think they are thinking inaccurately and could benefit from learning more – maybe even just from polite interactions with smart, cool women, BUT – if you think/see someone is misogynist, stay away, don’t try to fix it.

Here is a blog article that talks about it – but it’s by “new” feminists aren’t really scholars of Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza or Kyriarchy.

Also, when you feel sad about politics or current events, it’s worth it to re-read this letter from Leslie Knope:

Here is something else that is very important to remember – Even before you can vote, you are important. If you go to a protest, for example, it doesn’t matter if you are 18 yet. All that matters is that you are a human being standing in protest. (Or sitting and eating snacks while holding a sign or something.) The point is when you put your body or your voice in the political arena, that makes a difference, even before you are of voting age.

Same goes for phone calls. When you call the office of an elected representative, the point is that you are taking your time to use up the time of a staff member to communicate what matters to you. I know that people ask that you write letters/postcards, but it barely takes any time for a staff member of an elected official to read and count your letter/postcard. It takes way more time for them to talk to you and get your zip code and hear your concerns. When the staff members have to spend time out of their busy day listening to you, then they 1. Remember and 2. Tell their boss. And you don’t have to be 18 years old to communicate your concerns.

On that note, it’s valuable for you – even before you are 18 – to call/text adults you know who CAN vote and remind them that it’s important to you.

I also have to say this – we live in a two party system. I think that every young person experiments with being Independent or Green Party or something that isn’t Democrat or Republican. However, unless you are willing to work your tiny tush off to change the two-party-system into a three-party-system, I think it’s more efficient and effective to work within the system we’ve got.

There are a lot of people who would benefit from hearing smart, thoughtful, compassionate kids’ questions and concerns.

Please continue asking questions and sharing your concerns. Just even by thinking critically about the world, you are making it better.

ALSO, I love you and your family. ALSO, I’m sorry that the world can be so frustrating and scary.

More later, LOVE, Rabbi Susan Elizabeth Lippe, the First

November 9, 2022 – the day after Midterm Elections.

I don’t know how I’m the one who woke up with the pep talk energy this morning, but I guess it’s just my turn. Making the world a better place is difficult and slow! WE CAN DO IT TOGETHER. We can take turns.

When you feel sad/sick today, remember: Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert is trailing with more than 85% of votes counted in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District! [Update: she ended up winning in the morning, but I hope she made the most of that long, tough night of not knowing.] This morning at 9:30, Dr. Oz called John Fetterman to concede!

I know a lot of hateful people got elected – again. I know that many of us are feeling hopeless and powerless. Please don’t let hate take you over!!! We have so much more work to do. Hate saps energy! Some days, I have to focus on the successes so I don’t sink into despair!

Did you know that people with disabilities can vote FROM THEIR CARS in North Carolina????

Did you know that the third African American governor was just elected????

Democrats flipped Republican-held House seats in Ohio and Michigan and held on to vulnerable seats in Virginia, New Hampshire and elsewhere.

Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat, won re-election in an Ohio district redrawn to favor Republicans. She is set to become the longest-serving woman in congressional history.

Mary Peltola, a Democrat and the first Alaska Native elected to Congress, was ahead of Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich in Alaska’s sole House election!

Remember this: “Dems have a Florida problem, but Republicans have a Trump problem. That seems harder to solve.” — Jen Psaki, former Biden press secretary

Hear This: “My name is Nabeela Syed. I’m a 23-year old Muslim, Indian-American woman. We just flipped a Republican-held suburban district. And in January, I’ll be the youngest member of the Illinois General Assembly.”

We – all of us –  have to do the work! And, if we have privilege, WE HAVE TO USE IT TO MAKE THE WORLD BETTER!

I heard Eitan Hersh in an NPR interview about his book Politics is for Power a while back, and he has really inspired me. He said that focusing on national and world politics makes people feel helpless. Americans can use our power/agency in local politics. If I hadn’t focused on the mayoral race this time, I can’t imagine how sad and hopeless I would feel today.

I’m here for Celia Israel because Hersh’s words encouraged me to act locally!

Related: I’m going to say something controversial. Maybe – just maybe – it’s time to stop spending so much of our energy on JK Rowling and to start focusing more of our energy on stopping the hateful people who keep getting elected in our home states. Let’s focus on what we CAN DO to protect our most vulnerable humans.

Also, this poem brings me a little hope too: To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall by KIM ADDONIZIO.