Monday, May 28, 2007

Beyond FUNDRAISING: BlogCatalog Bloggers for Good Fundraising Challenge

This post and its title were suggested by BlogCatalog, a blog directory that’s spreading the word about a very worthy cause, DonorsChoose. This Memorial Day, bloggers are posting about DonorsChoose to help this non-profit organization raise money for public schools across the country. DonorsChoose goes beyond traditional charity work by teaming donors with teachers who have voiced specific needs. If you’d like to give underprivileged kids access to tools that will boost their literacy, DonorsChoose lists a whopping 3,800 proposals in this category alone. More into math? Consider donating to Math Mania or Math with a Flash proposals (or one of more than 2,000 other terrific teacher ideas). You get the picture….now if you’re feeling generous this Memorial Day, follow this link and do some good for our country’s kids in need. Their teachers will thank you…personally, in fact.

Photo © San Altos Elementary School, Lemon Grove CA

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Or should I say, Finally Reviewed. Other reading assignments for a neighborhood book club and for Junior Great Books (a program at my kids’ school) forced me to read Mixed in pieces over the past few months. A story here, a story there, but when I finally had a chance to plow through the majority of it, I found it well worth the effort. I’ve already discussed Rebecca Walker’s stunning introduction to this book. Before diving into the intro, however, I’d read Mixed editor Chandra Prasad’s foreward and then jumped to her short story, “Wayward,” and I was hooked. Only then did I read the introduction, and I’m very glad I did.

Rebecca Walker not only encouraged me to read on, she challenged me to read beyond the words of this unique anthology and try, however feebly, to glimpse the realities of the lives of so many people of mixed-race or cross-cultural heritage. While Rebecca Walker warns the picture may not always be pretty, the diversity of the works that grace the pages of Mixed ensure every reader will carry away multiple vivid, complex insights into the worlds its writers inhabit and explore in their work. One or two stories seemed (to me, anyway) to wallow in blatant bitterness or experimentation. Luckily, the other gems collected here far outshine those exceptions.

Among my favorites, Ruth Ozeki’s “The Anthropologists’ Kids” (“There used to be this joke at Yale, that in order to get tenure in the Anthropology Department you had to have an Oriental wife.”) and Lucinda Roy’s “Effigies (“Although he was biracial…, Sam had inherited barely a trace of Africa in his countenance. But his hair told a different story.”) follow each other right out of the gate. Peter Ho Davies’ rollicking and bittersweet “Minotaur” (“The horns of a dilemma? My horns are my dilemma.”) is then followed by Emily Raboteau’s classic “Mrs. Turner’s Lawn Jockeys” (“Our dad is in four places at once, and it’s giving him a headache…. He’s thinking about who he used to be, who he is, who people think he is, and who he wants me to become.”). That’s four phenomenal stories, all in a row.

And there are many more. Interested in what it’s like for a young Indian-American woman to cope? Read Carmit Delman’s “Footnote.” Curious to learn about a Palestinian-American girl suddenly moved from New York City to Wyoming, where her name is changed and she’s told never to again speak her father’s language? Try Diana Abu-Jaber’s “My Elizabeth.” The potential and possibilities of the mixed experience are limitless, really. Luckily, this anthology effectively explores a significant sample. I found Kien Nguyen’s “The Lost Sparrow” (and his author notes) most powerful. I’ll never forget his description of the mixed-race Vietnamese “children of the dust.”

“What’s vital about Mixed,” Chandra Prasad notes, “is its timeliness and its ability to welcome all readers into its fold. The literature here is by and about multiracial persons, but the feelings it evokes are universal.” I’d add that Mixed is also vital because it not only explores the mixed-race experience, it explodes so many common misconceptions that still impact—and in many cases threaten—its evolution.

Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience belongs on high school reading lists. While students in diverse school districts will find solace as they read about others who share the concerns that impact them or their friends, students in homogenous districts will be challenged to consider obstacles faced by such a wide variety of Americans of mixed-race or cross-cultural descent. I truly believe Mixed is just the beginning.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Beyond THE FUTURE: The Council for Responsible Genetics

Anyone who’s ever watched the 1997 sci-fi movie Gattaca starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law can easily imagine what lies in store if genetic discrimination is not just discouraged, but kept in check by the courts. A recent Reuters article, “House backs bill barring genetic discrimination,” touches on some of the basic concerns: that employers and insurance companies will deny employment or insurance coverage to individuals genetically predisposed for certain diseases. The bill in question was introduced 12 years ago and is still being tweaked. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here.

After reading a few older articles on the subject that seemed to suggest genetic discrimination is really nothing to worry about, I read about a shocking Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Company case: Last year the BNSF was charged with conducting genetic tests on employees without the employees’ informed consent. I then came across the Council for Responsible Genetics site, which lists additional recent cases of genetic discrimination. Apparently this is not a future concern after all; genetic discrimination is an active concern that deserves some active attention.

Based in Cambridge, MA, the Council for Responsible Genetics is a non-profit NGO (non-governmental organization) established in 1983 to foster “public debate about the social, ethical and environmental implications of genetic technologies.” In addition to its unique bimonthly magazine GeneWatch, which is “dedicated to monitoring biotechnology’s social, ethical and environmental consequences,” CRG offers an extensive collection of links following each article featured on its website. For more details about concerns tied to genetic testing, discrimination, and privacy see this article, then scroll down for a list of links to related materials, articles, legislation, and resources.

Bottom line as far as CRG is concerned: State and federal laws primarily address “the unlawful use of genetic data, sidestepping the question of whether employers and insurance companies should have access to genetic information in the first place.” Bottom line as far as private citizens in the U.S. are concerned: Your Constitution guarantees your right to privacy. Don’t let anyone force you to undergo genetic testing or share genetic testing results—now or at any time in the not-so-far future.

Illustration source: U.S. Department of Energy