by Frances Badgett March 10, 2013

In 2009, VIDA started a conversation about the visibility of women in publishing. For the past three years, VIDA has published lovely, useful, but seriously depressing pie charts on the ratio of female to male writers, reviewers, reviewed authors, and bylines from many of the big literary publications: Boston Review, Granta, Harper’s, London Review of […]

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Suicide, local. Suicide, global. (And it was already too much).

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein April 24, 2012

Last month, a Zanzibari teenage girl jumped from the second floor of her school building to her death. It happened on a Thursday in the Hurumzi neighbourhood of Stone Town, Zanzibar. Some say she was the victim of mashetani — spirits – who had descended upon the school building, sparking mass hysteria on Tuesday and Wednesday, […]

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Interference–A glimpse inside the ecstatic cult house of Kibuki spirits

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein April 13, 2011

Do you believe in devils? Spirits? Possessions? Exorcisms? Or are spirits in any society simply the bio-chemical reality of hypnosis, revelation through sound, pitch and tone? An anthropological need for the occasional freak-out, fulfilled? I was skeptical of all things spirits until recently, when I stepped into a Kibuki cult spirit possession ceremony. There, in […]

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Cash-sash and other culture jams: (No I’m not married, I don’t have a baby)

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein April 5, 2011

You heard me. No, I’m not married. No, I don’t have a baby. These are the two of the most potent culture-bombs I drop on unsuspecting Zanzibar citizens on a near-daily basis. The reaction hints at devastation for some, others are just confused. You’re thirty-five and you don’t have children? Never been married? In my […]

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Toni Morrison’s $30,000 payday

by David Alm March 28, 2011

By now you’ve probably heard about Toni Morrison’s next big speaking engagement: the commencement address at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The Nobel Laureate will receive $30,000 and an honorary doctorate for the speech, scheduled for May 15th th is year. Let me state upfront that I like Toni Morrison. I first read her as […]

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Stitched secrets, public poetics: My obsession with kanga text/iles in East Africa

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein March 23, 2011

Some people think it was my love for a certain local fisherman that brought me back to Zanzibar. True, I did fall in love. But it was my obsessive love for kangas — those vibrant textiles inscribed with poetic Swahili text messages at the bottom — that truly seduced me. The ubiquitous kanga, worn by […]

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What does it mean to write like a girl?

by Rebecca Lehmann March 20, 2011

In light of the VIDA count, and the LA Times’ snafu of posting a picture of Jonathan Franzen in an article re: the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, Jennifer Egan, under the heading “Egan Beats Franzen in National Book Critics Circle’s fiction prize,” I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it […]

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Dear Los Angeles Times, this is a photo of Jennifer Egan

by Cynthia Newberry Martin March 11, 2011

Dear Los Angeles Times, Regarding your headlines* today on the National Book Critics Circle Awards, the photo you posted is not Jennifer Egan. In addition,  I would also like to point out that you mention the name of Mr. Franzen’s novel, the one that didn’t win but it’s true was written by a male, while […]

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How does it feel to be a problem? The Vida Study

by Michael Washburn February 24, 2011

A few years ago – 2007, I think – I organized and moderated a panel discussion on habeas corpus and the brazen disregard with which the Bush Administration’s then-recent actions treated the issue. The panel, moderator aside, was quite brilliant: Corey Robin, David Cole, and Aziz Huq each took turns briefly and incisively providing historical […]

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Piko in Paje – ancient Swahili lady lessons on pleasure and pain

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein February 17, 2011

“Siri ya mtungi aijuae kata.” The secret of the water pitcher is only known by its ladle. — Swahili proverb Where did you learn about sex ? I mean, not just about sex, but about pleasure? My sex education happened haphazardly in hotel lobbies during Bar Mitzvah time-outs, when we’d lounge on couches after sweaty […]

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