The Harmful History of ‘Gypsy’ in Bitch Magazine

Seriously, can you imagine any other racial slur titling a TV show in 2017? Luckily, the show, Gypsy, was cancelled the very day that Bitch Media published my essay, “The Harmful History of ‘Gypsy,'” but the casual use of this racial slur continues. So if you ever wondered why it’s not ok for people to say “gypped” to mean “to cheat,” why you can’t make the word “Gypsy” mean whatever you want it to mean, or where the magical, sexy, thieving, wanderlusting “Gypsy” stereotypes come from, then read this.

https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/gypsy

 

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Image of the Gypsy Netflix posters with anti-racist grafitti from Bitch Media 

Book Review: Witches, Sluts, Feminists by Kristen Sollée is a Must-Read

I was delighted to review a book I love, Witches, Sluts, Feminists by Kristen J. Sollée, for BUST.com. Here’s an excerpt:

As a Romani woman from a long, matrilineal line of healers and magic workers, how could I fail to be intrigued by Kristen J. Sollée’s book, Witches, Sluts, Feminists. It’s a scintillating, wry, and accessibly academic overview of the witch archetype in relation to the European and American witch hunts, and to the festival of misogyny in current American politics. Sollée, a professor of Gender Studies at The New School, teaches a popular class on the same topic. In the book, Sollée explores the deadly interplay of women’s financial and social autonomy, and sometimes sexual liberation, during the inquisition and the days of colonial America. Today, though sex and power can still be damning for women, they can also be quite a combination for activism and protest art.

In my review, I discuss the ways in which my own experience with witchcraft relates to Sollée’s work, and the ways in which she acknowledges that so much of modern Paganism is often unapologetically appropriative, and what can be done to initiate that healing. I should explain that my first line,”A Romani woman from a long, matrilineal line of healers and magic workers….” refers to the very ordinary magic of herbalism, energy work, and prayer that many Roma practice. My grandmother claims the title witch because it is understood by outsiders, and I do too. And while I am an English professor, writer, and editor, I also work the family trades, fortune telling and dancing, still practiced by some Roma. Like all Roma, I am not one thing. Romani people aren’t inherently magical, and most would be reluctant to claim the words “magic” and “witch” the way my family does, because these practices are not out of the ordinary. They are everyday healing, and I think that’s what Sollée is saying in her book too. The witch/slut archetype are very human, and that humanity is extraordinary in its tradition, practicality, and power.

For the full review on http://www.bust.com, follow this link: http://bust.com/books/193139-witches-sluts-feminists-kristen-sollee-review.html

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Loving the book in a lacy cami

My “Madness is Remembering” essay is published in Prairie Schooner!

I’m happy to share that “Madness is Remembering,” my essay awarded the Penelope Nivens Award by the Center for Women Writers and Elissa Washuta last year, is now in the Summer 2017 issue of Prairie Schooner. The essay is about love, cyclical violence, Romani (“Gypsy”) culture, inherited trauma, and survival. I’ll be in there alongside writer and friend Brenda Peynado, so make sure to check out her story too! The summer print issue will be available to order soon!

KGB Bar Red Room Reading with At The Inkwell Tonight!

Devin Kelly, Carly Dashiell & Jessica Reidy (NYC)

April 12 @ 7:00 PM9:00 PM EDT

Join us at the infamous KGB Bar, tucked in The Red Room, for some poetry as part of the At The Inkwell Series. Click here for more information. I’m delighted to be a part of this. Come revel in the odd compulsion to express the human condition!

Here’s the Facebook Invite!

 

 

Portrait by Aurora Rose and John

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This photo is part of a series by the photographer Aurora Rose de Crosta. More on this later. She and John took many portraits, and I chose this as my favorite and answered this short interview to go along with it. Check out Aurora’s and John’s work at www.auroraandjohn.com. They are a beautiful and talented pair who I am so honored to have worked with.

1). Why did you choose the outfit you did? What about it represents you the most?
I chose this outfit because it’s one of my favorite dresses to wear when I dance. I like to perform a combination of Romani dance and Bellydance, but actually the dress is a Mexican wedding dress from the 1970’s from my favorite vintage store, The Odd Showroom, which was operated by the artist Amity Joy. I am a writer, perhaps first and foremost, but my grandmother taught me her Romani (“Gypsy”) family trades fortune telling, dance, and healing. The word “Gypsy” is a racial slur and reduces us to stereotypes, a dangerous thing in the midst of the current Romani human rights crisis. We are more than fortune tellers and dancers– I am also an English professor, writer, artist, editor, and activist– but these old trades, born of persecution in the centuries after our ancestors left India in the great diaspora, live on too.

2). Do you in general like being photographed? Why?
Yes and no. I did some very small-time modeling when I was young, and I suppose I got used to it, and now I’m a professional art model and have my image rendered in a number of mediums over and over again. If you believe in astrology, I am on the Cancer/Leo cusp (a touch deeper into Leo), and I suppose my relationship with having my picture taken reflects this. I don’t actually know anything about astrology though. I like being a part of an artist’s work, but sometimes it’s hard to look at my own image.

3). How did you feel during the shoot?
Aurora and John were so kind and creative and gave me loving direction while encouraging my own spontaneity. What a joy to work with! Deniz Ataman did my makeup, and she made me feel so glamorous. I loved that we shot in my bedroom too– the whole thing felt so intimate and sweet, and I felt supported in being myself, in all my odd multitudes.

4). Why did you choose the photo you chose?
I am a writer, and I fancy that in this photo I have a crazy face like Jean of Arc in Jules Bastien-Lepage (1879) painting (my paternal grandfather’s favorite), when the angels are telling her what her calling is. When I was a child, I believed that writing was my purpose, and it gave me a reason to live with a fire that I flattered myself by likening to Jean of Arc’s fire. I still might believe that.

5). Were there any particular images you hated? Why?
Anything remotely unflattering I will always hate because my vanity runs wide and deep.

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Joan of Arc, Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1879, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Luna Luna Resists: Protest, Lit, Community

If you need resistance literature and community organizing in your life, join me for LUNA LUNA RESISTS: Protest, Lit, Community. Some of my favorite writers are performing, as well as a number of writers I have not yet had the pleasure of hearing. It’s important to use our work for resistance, to support those affected by Trump’s despotic regime, and to create a safe community for dissent, activism, and mobilization. Here’s the run-down from the organizers:

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Lita Cabellut, Romani artist, from her series “The Secret Behind the Veil” 

This Sunday, 2/5, from 5-8 PM, Luna Luna Magazine presents a night of poetry, prose and dialogue in the spirit of resistance & community support. Partnering with GAMBAzine at the Gamba Forest space in Brooklyn, NY, Luna Luna will host short readings and a space for informal discussion and conversation around support, organizing and personal stories. Each reader will present 1-2 short pieces. Drinks will be available for purchase. There will be a few intermissions and time for talking.

We encourage people to bring friends and family. We especially welcome women, people of color, immigrants and other marginalized groups that are at risk under the Trump administration.

IF YOU OR YOUR FAMILY ARE DIRECTLY AFFECTED BY TRUMP, PLEASE LET US KNOW. WE WANT TO HEAR YOUR WORK.

*** READER LINEUP ***

SET 1:
Lisa Marie Basile
Monica Lewis
Rowana Abbensetts
Jessica Reidy
Shafina Ahmed
Dianca London
Trish Grisafi

SET 2:
Melissa Hunter Gurney
Tala Abu Rahmeh
Stephanie Valente
Mercy L. Tullis-Bukhari
Joanna Valente
Karina Vahitova
Chris Carr

SET 3:
Christine Stoddard
Ronna Lebo
Olivia Kate Cerrone
Deniz Ataman
Yi Wu
Nicola Maye Goldberg
Jasmine Dreame Wagner

 

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Lita Cabellut, from the series “The Secret Behind the Veil”

Writers’ Circle: Establishing Creative Ritual

I’m delighted to announce that I’m running a bi-monthly Writers’ Circle at Tarot Society in Brooklyn, NY, every other Wednesday night from 7-8:30. It’s my experience as an English and Writing Professor and yoga teacher that ritual can lend not only structure to a creative person’s life but also a great deal of inspiration. Ritual helps us delineate space and energy, and if you are the type to believe that writing is a kind of alchemy, then you may appreciate the practice of charging your writing time and environment with intention. Think of it as a magical rite, invoking the muse, calling to your higher self, or appealing to your genius (those delightful daemons the Romans believed worked through us). We’ll draw from various traditions of meditation, mindfulness, and magic work to open the space for our writing. Then, we’ll begin the circle with craft talk, usually incorporating examples from a diverse array of writers (often outside of the great white canon). From here, we move on to writing prompts and time to write, and end with optional sharing and feedback. The goal is to have you leave with some new material that you can play with afterwards, and if you choose to invite feedback, our suggestions are informed by the freshness of the work, rooted in questions like, “What did you love? What did you want to see more of? What were you curious about?”

If you feel like you could use some more energy, discipline, and magic in your work, then join the Writers’ Circle, open to all genres and writers. Follow Tarot Society on Facebook or join the mailing list to keep on top of the Writers’ Circle schedule.

The Writers’ Circle and Tarot Society is a decidedly safe and intersectional space, welcoming to all genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and abilities. Please come in the spirit of art, love, and tolerance.