Lessons in Taxidermy -- Bee Lavender
Born in poverty, diagnosed with cancer at age twelve, perilously pregnant at eighteen, surviving surgeries and accidents and violence: sometimes you can't believe Bee Lavender is still alive; sometimes you think nothing could kill her. Lessons in Taxidermy is Lavender's fierce and expressive search for truth, an elusive sense of safety, and freedom from the limits placed on working class lives. The author details her struggle for survival, her fight for an education, and the risks she took to elevate her own children out of poverty. But she is never a victim, and never complains about her circumstances: as her mother points out, the women in her family do not cry. They fight back. Pushed to the edge of existence, the author has to relearn how to talk, ride a bicycle, make a fist, and shoot a gun. This autobiographical tale is stark and resolved, but strangely euphoric, tying together moments and memories into a frantic, delicate, and often transcendently funny account of anguish and confusion, pain and poverty, isolation and illusion. While staying conscious of the particulars, Lavender frames her life in the context of history, traveling, landscape, and freak show culture. This book will disarm all of your preconceived notions about growing up in poverty. Lessons in Taxidermy is apocryphal, troubling, cathartic, and important.
It is one of the many charms of this book that Lavender is not only aware of the conventions of such autobiographies but that she consciously rejects them. Her powerful, elegant memoir should be read by everyone.... as an example of what truly well-written and unflinching self-examination can be like.
-The Sunday Telegraph
... An unflinching, beautifully written memoir of a childhood lost to illness...
Highly readable, fast-flowing account of a life of fighting off death - literally.... an extraordinary tale.
Lavender... holds nothing back as she recounts her life spent in and out of hospitals and her subsequent dissociation from her own body and emotions... witnessing her strength and sheer determination to live makes this striking book completely engrossing.
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
...There's a deep, almost painful beauty in her seemingly dispassionate language, and as Lavender interweaves the story of her most recent illness with those of her childhood and young adulthood, she also gives context to the physical contours and social history of the working-class Pacific Northwest landscape that was her home. In sifting through her unwanted memories, poking at the still-raw scars and bruises, Lavender shows how it is possible to transcend the body and its demands, to construct a whole and rewarding life out of a fractured past.
Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture
The writing is beautiful... Lavender is living proof of how much strength and determination one human being can possess... Reading Lessons in Taxidermy will pull your head out of pathetic self-pity. You will think again and realize that you are not all alone in this world. You will discover your own strength.
Jackson Free Press
You know the moment when you see someone injure themselves and it's painful and awkward to watch, but rather than reacting like a normal human being, you laugh a little? Even if the infliction was terrible and deep- perhaps the laughter is out of shock? ... Lessons in Taxidermy will probably make you shock-laugh. The book is short, dark, but inspiring...
There's little sense of comfort in Taxidermy; it's a brutal story, told with no sense of victimhood or blame. The result is a terrifying tale of a woman trying to live a complete life with a body that fails her in the most horrific ways imaginable. It's the type of book that breaks a reader's heart in the first five pages and repeats the process on each page for the remaining 155. The lone relief comes from knowing Lavender, now relatively healthy, survived it all to write such a stirring memoir.
-Time Out Chicago
Bee Lavender, activist, writer, publisher of HipMama.com: resilient, tougher than a barnyard of bikers, strong as hell, yet never hard, documents her battle against an encyclopaedia of physical ailments which would have felled lesser mortals. Bee Lavender... continues to do what she does best, inspiring other women to live creative lives and channel their experiences constructively. When the urge to whine hits, pick up this courageous document of female strength. Your Flesh Magazine
Lavender's memoir is exquisite, precise and deeply affecting from beginning to end. -Bookslut
Bee Lavender's story is a testament to guts, endurance and an indomitable will to not succumb to the maladies that are laying siege to her body. You think nobody knows the trouble you've seen? Read this, and stop whining.
-Small Spiral Notebook
She never once hints at self pity. Instead, she peels back the muscles and tendons like a medical student learning the mysteries of the human body - except for her, the subject is something more than the physical. She cuts into her wounds - body and soul - and extracts truth... Bee Lavender is the kind of person who makes you want to buck up and be brave - in writing as much as life. And Lessons in Taxidermy is the kind of book everyone should read.
Lessons in Taxidermy is unflinching and engrossing, devoid of self-pity, heart-wrenching and inspiring. -Rockpile: Independent Music and Culture
Bee's scrupulous, non-histrionic style is thrilling; it allows for
devastating emotional moments because the author comes by them
-Ayun Halliday, author of Dirty Sugar Cookies
A narrative that is breathtaking in its horrible, beautiful honesty.
-Gayle Brandeis, author of The Book of Dead Birds
Bee Lavender is a fantastic writer. Her work is deep and personal and
don't think there are any places she's scared to go. Reading her
makes me feel brave, like I'm living a hard and infinitely redeeming
right along with her.
-Michelle Tea, author of Valencia and The Chelsea Whistle
Mamaphonic -- Bee Lavender and Maia Rossini (eds)
Mamaphonic collects confessions and conversations about the exhilarating, entertaining, and difficult aspects of remaning creative while raising children. Essays range from the hilarious to the heart-wrenching, including voices as diverse as a transgendered teenage couple, academics, flamenco dancers, punk rockers and poets. One writer is diagnosed with a terminal illness during her pregnancy, and asks: "If you had only six months to live, what would you write?" Through essays, photographs, and illustrations, this disarming and eclectic mix proves that becoming a mother is an expression of creativity, not its silencing. "We flatly refuse to agree with the idea that becoming a mother is the end. Because it's not. It's the beginning."
For all our supposed advancement since previous generations, the
societal duress implicit in our concept of the "good mother" seems to
linger. In perhaps no other career choice is the tension between the
self-sacrifice of motherhood and the need for self-actualization felt more strongly than in artistic and literary pursuits. This theme-along with that of the practical obstacles and unexpected inspirations of creating while tending to one child or more-is repeatedly but not repetitiously examined in this collection of essays, practical guides, poetry, and illustrations edited by writer-mamas Lavender and Rossini. The pieces are as varied as the nature of the art created by their authors, including dancers, artists, photographers, writers, singers, and 'zine creators. Still, a sense of honesty, passion and, yes, intense motherly love is apparent throughout. Highly recommended for both family/relationship and arts and literature collections.
My next-to-favorite thing about Mamamphonic is the number of artistic
careers represented. There is a flamenco dancer, rock musicians,
poets, and an illustrator who turned to making decorated cakes and cookies when her son was small. I loved reading about how to make a record label,
and I loved Marrit Ingman's account of incorporating motherhood into
her career as a film reviewer. This is my favorite thing about
Mamahphonic: the adoration these women feel for their families, their
joy (even on bad days) at the synthesis of motherhood and art.
--Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers
Mamaphonic presents more than two dozen essays on what might be
called the delicate balancing act of motherhood and artistic work, except that, as these contributors prove, the act is not so much delicate as it is
messy, arduous, and absolutely essential.
Reading Mamaphonic is like being on a retreat with an enormously diverse and wise sisterhood of those who really understand punk rockers and dancers and researchers, cartoonists and cookie decorators, all pretty much in agreement: How do we do it? We don't know. To do it is difficult, but not to do it would be impossible.
By sharing their experiences and their stories, these creative women
offer a gift to all mothers and mothers-to-be. And with that gift comes
comfort and solace for those who may walk in their shoes creatively or otherwise.
Breeder -- Ariel Gore and Bee Lavender (eds)
They've been told they're not old enough, not responsible enough, not financially stable enough. They've been asked why: Why now, why ever, and when are you going to stop? They've wiped noses and waited tables, packed lunches and taken babies to the shooting range. They've blended minivans with murals, tattoos with breastfeeding, band practice and the PTA. They're breeders. They are women of a very different generation from their own boomer moms, and they never thought they had to choose between work and family. These young mothers believe they can do everything, and they valiantly face the challenges implied: how to balance work and family, how to create a community where none exists, how to liven up beans and rice for the third day in a row. This groundbreaking compilation creates a space where mothers from all backgrounds provide disarming thoughts on sex, infertility, birth, true love, bad boyfriends, and breast pumps. With its strength, humor, and wisdom, this collection is a must read for every young mother, and for anyone who wants a peak into the mind and the spirit behind those bleary eyes. Foreword by Dan Savage.
The contributors to this standout anthology from the editors of Hip
The Parenting Zine are welfare moms, journalists, television writers,
poets, and "social justice ninjas" women who "choose to have our kids
while, not instead of, following our other dreams." The writers
the task of parenting with determination, wit, self-awareness, and a
serious dose of heterodoxy. The result is a kaleidoscopic look at
a mother, with essays about a road trip; the neonatal ICU; battling
depression and contemplating suicide; teaching your kid to fly a
even being 15 years old and having to fight an adoption counselor to
your son. Whether you're a parent, parent-to-be, or nonparent,
promises a satisfying and illuminating look at the latest
-Mother Jones Magazine
The voices of mothers--the real in-the-trenches voices of
threaten the status quo. Tell the truth about your ambivalence, rage,
passion--whether about miscarriage, breast pumps, or (as profiled
your welfare-avoidance job as a stripper--and watch the general
recoil. But as every mother knows, there is nothing more comforting
finding another woman who is willing to sit in your kitchen and share
honest-to-God truth about mothering. So it takes a lot of
loyalty to write the gut-wrenching motherhood stories that you'll
Breeder. And fortunately, coeditors Bee Lavender and Ariel Gore had
grit and pluck to get them published.
It is the quality of the writing that sets Hip Mama apart. This site
ultimately provides succor to moms who cannot relate to our culture's
mawkish notions of motherhood. Yet although it is cool and sometimes
sharp, Hip Mama wears its heart on its Gerbers-stained sleeve,
"hip" not just as " aware, informed" but also as "a place where
young children sit when they're tired of walking."
-The New Yorker
Hipmama.com was, without a doubt, the only parenting site on the Web
marked the passing of Joey Ramone. It was probably alone, again, when
posted this headline: "Who says moms aren't hot?" Bee Lavender--
activist, mother -- is definitely hot. She is the very
Fun and irreverent.
No sanctified endorsement of the usual myths about motherhood here.
neat checklists of all-too-easy parenting solutions or slick
professional experts telling how it's supposed to be. Hip Mama speaks
listens) to parents who want or need to raise kids their own way....
Mama explores the real stuff of parenting with a proper recognition
ambiguity of it all--and plenty of love and humanity.
-The Utne Reader
Proof that being a mother doesn't have to be boring -- or
- Fast Company
Traditional or not, the topics are handled with serious insight.
-San Jose Mercury News
Bee Lavender's work has also appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and radio programs in the United States and the United Kingdom.
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images and content copyright Bee Lavender 2002 - 2014
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