President Obama

I still can’t believe I get to write the words President Obama.

I’m just as thrilled that Michelle will be in the White House alongside him, and that my daughter will get to watch Sasha and Malia grow up in the White House, while she grows up too.

Check out these pictures of the Obama family taken by Callie Shell—be sure to click on the “Show More Images” tab on the bottom to see all of them. My favorites are of them snuggling on the campaign bus, and Barack cleaning up crumbs after a stop in a diner.

Of course any discussion of the President and First Lady isn’t complete without a mention of fashion. Or lack thereof. Those photos that People ran of him with his shirt off? That secured my vote very early on.

Then there’s Michelle’s election night dress. Hmmm….I wasn’t over the moon about it, though I love that she’s daring and not sticking with pantsuits (gag) and everpresent pearls (blech.) Here are some of her fashion choices. My favorite is the classic trench paired with high-heeled boots, which is a perfect uniform for all us girls trying to save the world.

(As a side note, I have to point out that my Election Boyfriend called the final results almost PERFECTLY. I will love him always.)

Do it for Susan, Elizabeth, and Ida

Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray asked me to participate in Blog the Vote, which is uniting bloggers across the web to celebrate voting, and to write nonpartisan posts about why we vote and what it means to us.

I voted early last week, and stepping into the voting booth, I had a quiver in my belly. Voting isn’t just a duty and a right…it’s a thrill.

Voting is thrilling, because for women, the right to vote is a recent phenomenon, one that we should never take for granted.

In America, it’s only been 88 years that women have had the right. (Women in the Soviet Union, Great Britain, Canada, Austria, Poland, Germany, Australia, Finland, Norway, and Czechoslovakia all won the right to vote before we did.)

In case you’re a little rusty on your women’s suffrage history, go rent Ken Burns’ excellent documentary, Not for Ourselves Alone, and read the companion book. In the book, Ellen Carol DuBois writes about the suffragettes:

“Will we forget these women again? There is that danger. When feminist vitctories are won, we get used to them very quickly. It is as if women had always been educated, always voted, always had the right to expect equality in the labor force, always had the right to expect equality in their family lives. But the truth is that each of these rights was fought for long and hard…”

Though Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Suffrage Association in 1869, neither lived to see the amendment passed or to vote themselves.

Ida B. Wells fought for women’s suffrage and fought against the racism in the women’s suffrage movement. (If you haven’t heard of Wells, read her autobiography, Crusade for Justice, or Paula Giddings’ new biography. When Wells was 21, she refused to give up her seat on a railroad car, and bit the conductor who tried to remove her—then sued the railroad and won. This was 70 years before Rosa Parks.) A story about Ida is told in Not for Ourselves Alone:

“In 1913, when Wells attended the National American Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., she was told she could not march with other suffragists from Illinois for fear of alienating white southerners. Blacks were expected to march together at the end of the parade. Wells would have none of it; she waited on the sidewalk until the Illinois delegation came into view, then slipped between two white women and marched with them up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol.”

On November 2, 1920, for the first time in history, eight million women went to the polls in America. In 2004, over 67 million women voted—almost 10 million more women than men. In 2008, I hope the numbers are even higher. I’m proud—and thrilled—to be part of the legacy that Ida, Susan, and Elizabeth fought so hard for.

Visit Chasing Ray for a full list of Blog the Vote posts.

The Texas Book Festival

I have a full schedule at the book festival this weekend. If you live in Austin, please come by!

Saturday, November 1st, 11am-12pm: “Adolescence: Is It Really That Bad?”* panel, Capitol Extension Room E1.016

Saturday, November 1st, 3pm: Teddy Book Award Ceremony, Capitol Extension Room E2.026

Saturday, November 1st, 8pm: Not for Required Reading event. This will be a family-feud style thing with Shannon Hale, Melissa de la Cruz, Varian Johnson, Lauren Myracle, Paula Yoo, Jenny Ziegler, Martin Wilson, and others. It’s being emceed by Lauren Lane, who played CC Babcock on The Nanny (I have to confess, I loved that show…how could I not like a show about someone from my hometown of Queens?) Should be very fun! At Austin Bat Cave, 1807 W. 11th St.

Sunday November, 2nd, 10-12am, Writer’s League of Texas fundraising brunch.


Cures for Heartbreak wins the Texas Teddy Children’s Book Award

Yay! The award, it turns out, is named after the bear, not the lingerie. (In case you were wondering.)

I’m particularly excited about winning an award with bear-inspired nomenclature since I actually have a good history with bear-related prizes: when I was eight, I won the Most Disgusting Putrescent Teddy Bear of New York City Award.

Actually, Flopsoy won it. I’ve owned Flopsoy since birth, which perhaps explains why he looks like he was run over by a lawnmower, put through a paper shredder, and then gobbled and regurgitated by pirahnas. He is gross. And I’m not sure exactly why he’s named Flopsoy, though I think it was because I couldn’t pronounce Flopsy correctly, not because I had an affinity for soy.

In any case, when I was eight, I made my mother take me to the New York City Teddy Bear Festival, which was sponsored by Gund and held in a huge conference room at Bloomingdale’s. I think the official title that Flopsoy won was Most Loved Bear, or something equally dignified, but it might as well have been Most Fetid, since the majority of the entrants looked like they had passed through several mammals’ digestive systems.

Here is Flopsoy, in all his glory:

The Teddy Book Award ceremony will take place at the Texas Book Festival this Saturday at 3pm! Flopsoy may be in attendance.

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate

In these uncertain political and economic times, what we need is some unconditional happiness.

What we need is chocolate.

I’ve been meaning to write about chocolate for months now (it being in the title of this blog) but got so distracted by various book-related shenanigans that I’ve been remiss in my duties. I apologize.

So, at long last: Chocolate! Here are my four favorite kinds:

1. In the standard bar category: Chocolove’s Chilies and Cherries Dark Chocolate Bar. Why do I love Chocolove? Let me count the ways: (a) it’s yummy (b) I love dried cherries and the subtle spice from the chilies (c) these bars come with a POEM inside the wrapper. Yes! It’s true! Chocolate + Sonnet = Perfect Joy.

2. In the odd-looking bar category: Lake Champlain Chocolate’s Five Star Bar in Caramel. I eat this bar in slices, like a piece of cake. It’s flavored with honey and vanilla and is just sooo good. My friend Steve Almond has a whole section in his book Candyfreak about Lake Champlain Chocolates—if you haven’t read Candyfreak, you must. Especially on Halloween. With a Five Star Bar in your mouth.

3. In the pretty chocolates category: Marie Belle. There are no better-looking chocolates in the world. I would like to live inside a box of Marie Belle chocolates. If you find yourself in NYC, you have to go to their cafe on Broome Street and drink their hot chocolate. It’s like drinking an entire chocolate bar.

4. Last, but not least, my favorite chocolates in the entire universe: Pierre Marcolini. My friend in France, whom my daughter is named after, introduced these to me ten years ago and I’m forever in her debt. She’s originally from Belgium, and we stayed at her family’s house in Brussels. I loved Brussels—I’d never seen so many chocolate shops in one place in my life. (Plus, how can you not love a place that serves french fry sandwiches?) In Brussels we ate chocolate constantly—spread on our toast for breakfast, and squares of it were served with coffee in every cafe, and then of course the Pierre Marcolinis every night for dessert. There’s a Pierre Marcolini store in NYC, but not one in Austin, which is probably for the best considering how much they cost. But if anyone ever feels like sending a certain exiled-in-Texas writer a box of Pierre Marcolinis, I will marry you. (Especially if your name is Nate Silver.)

My Election Boyfriend

I’ve ditched my other election poll sites and am going steady with Nate Silver at 538. I love Nate. His analysis is so much more thorough and intelligent than the other sites, and he’s not afraid to take them on and show them who’s boss—in fact he recently got in a little fight with the guy at Real Clear Politics, which is kind of funny to read. (I am definitely on Nate’s side.)

Nate’s been holding my hand through this whole crazy election cycle, through the iffy times and now when things are looking good. At the moment he says there’s almost a 90% statistical probability that Obama gets elected. But who knows what the Republicans are going to pull out of their sleeves yet?

Whatever happens, I’m glad I have Nate* to guide me through it. Plus he’s on the Colbert Report tonight!

*(My husband is totally okay with me having an Election Boyfriend, btw, and has been known to ask, “Did your Election Boyfriend have any news today?”)

Did reading Forever at 11 ruin me forever?

It’s Banned Books Week this week, and it turns out that Judy Blume’s Forever is one of the top 10 banned books of the 21st Century and one of the top 10 banned books from 1990-2000 as well.

Ralph’s wickedness endures.

My editor sent me the link to this essay in Publisher’s Weekly, by children’s librarian Shannon Stevenson, written in response to my Times essay. I’ve thought about this issue of age-appropriateness a lot, as a writer and as a mother. I grew up in a house filled with books, and none were forbidden to me—my mother let me read whatever I wanted. She let me buy a copy of Forever when I was 11, which made me very popular among my friends. (My dog-eared copy was passed around by all of them.) But reading about Ralph at a tender age didn’t lead me down a wanton path, as it seems the book censors fear. In fact I was probably the most chaste teenager on the planet. If anything, being allowed to read books like that (and knowing that I could talk to my mom about pretty much anything) helped me figure out that I wasn’t ready to meet any Ralphs in person for a long time.

A book is not a movie—a reader is an active participant in a book; they conjure the images in their mind. I’ve always preferred books to movies, and that’s partly why. I watched some of The Shining when I was really young, and that scared the living crap out of me for the rest of my life, mostly because I couldn’t get those images out of my head. Forever, or any books I read with sex and violence didn’t scare the crap out of me, because I brought my own experience to those books, my own images.

The one thing I remember most about the impact Forever had on me was how quickly the characters fell out of love. That’s what shocked me. As a young girl, I believed the romance-novel notion that when you fell in love, it would last forever. Having that illusion broken had more impact on me than Ralph did.

So no, Forever didn’t ruin me. Though I wonder what other names Judy had in mind besides “Ralph”? Did she ever think about Tommy? George? Mortimer? Sigmund? Agamemnon? Ignatius? Shlomo?


Today is the first official day of fall, but here in Austin it’s midsummer. The temperatures are still in the 80s and 90s…and I love it. In New York summer always felt too short, and I’m glad that summer here will stretch into…October? November? I guess I’ll soon find out.

One of my favorite poems that I heard at Bread Loaf this summer was Midsummer by Louise Gluck. It was lovely to hear it read aloud by her in August in Vermont—there was something ethereal about her reading, and when she finished reading this poem all I wanted to do was to read it again. When I came home I was glad to find it online. Here is the first stanza:

by Louise Gluck

On nights like this we used to swim in the quarry,
the boys making up games requiring them to tear off the girls’ clothes
and the girls cooperating, because they had new bodies since last summer
and they wanted to exhibit them, the brave ones
leaping off the high rocks—bodies crowding the water.

The nights were humid, still. The stone was cool and wet,
marble for graveyards, for buildings that we never saw,
buildings in cities far away.

And the last stanza, which is my favorite:

The summer night glowed; in the field, fireflies were glinting.
And for those who understood such things, the stars were sending messages:
You will leave the village where you were born
and in another country you’ll become very rich, very powerful,
but always you will mourn something you left behind, even though
you can’t say what it was,
and eventually you will return to seek it.

The entire poem can be read here.

Polls, polls, polls

I’ve become addicted to checking three election poll sites: Pollster, RealClearPolitics, and FiveThirtyEight.

I’m not sure why I keep checking them almost every day. I think I just want to know what the outcome will be before I get my hopes up too much. This is probably partly because of the heartbreak of 2004, when I was certain Kerry was going to win. I wasn’t even that nuts about Kerry; I was just convinced that he would defeat Bush. I spent the day of the election joining the “get out the vote” campaign in Pennsylvania—I took a bus there with Allison Amend and Amy Sickels, and we’d convinced ourselves Kerry was the winner; we were sure of it. When the returns started coming in and it began to look a little bleak, I still had hope, and I kept hoping—one might say audaciously hoping—until the next morning when he officially conceded, and then I cried. I cried a lot. It was as if I’d fallen in love with a guy who I knew wasn’t even right for me, but I wanted it to work out so much that I’d pinned all my hopes upon him.

So this time, as much as I like Obama, I’ve been unable to let myself get too attached. I just want to know what might happen, to prepare myself, so I won’t get as heartbroken again. Hence the incessant poll-checking.

(Which makes me think, when I look back on my single days: wouldn’t it be nice if when you’re dating someone there was a website where you could check the probability that it would work out? If they just told you, “This relationship only has a 28.5% chance of working,” you would save yourself a lot of heartbreak.)

Anyway. I’ve decided that the coverage at FiveThirtyEight is my favorite of the three sites, and I also really enjoy their commentary, particularly their posts on the Bradley Effect, or lack thereof.

According to their poll results today, Obama has a 61.2% chance of winning. So maybe I will fall in love with him yet….