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Of Morgan Freeman, gods and monsters: Men are human, not either saintly or irredeemable

I’m proud to share my first byline for the New York Daily News! While I’m really proud of the piece and where it landed, my joy is lacking some of its oomph. I recently realized it’s because I can’t share this win with my grandma, who passed away last October. I’ll have to imagine her tears of joy instead of calling her up to hear them.

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“Morgan Freeman recently found himself on the #MeToo list, accused of sexual misconduct. As expected, responses generally landed in two categories: horrified belief and staunch disbelief. While puns abound when we decry public figures for bad behavior, the most popular in reference to Freeman speaks to the danger of binary thinking when it comes to toxic masculinity; if Freeman can play God, can he be a devil?”

Read the full article here.

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Doctors Told Me I Was ‘Too Highly Educated’ to Be Sick, and other stories

I’ve been very remiss with sharing my new bylines here! So without further ado, here are my most recent articles. I’ll also probably be starting a newsletter soon.

Doctors Told Me I Was ‘Too Highly Educated’ to Be Sick, published in SheKnows:

Beginning in 2006, I slept 12 hours most nights and often took a two-hour nap in the afternoon. I wasn’t lazy — I was exhausted. I talked slowly, moved slowly and had difficulty driving because my brain couldn’t keep up…

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If 19th Century Novels had Clickbait Titles, published on Buzzfeed:

Ever wonder what classic authors’ titles would have been if they had to rely on clicks?

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The Historical Need for Black Colleges, published in JSTOR Daily:

Historically black Talladega College was widely criticized for its decision to have its marching band participate in President-elect Trump’s inauguration parade. Much of the uproar has to do with black colleges’ roots in combating unequal education, a feat that many argue will deteriorate under Trump’s presidency…

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More Hidden Figures of NASA History, published in JSTOR Daily:

By now, just about everyone has heard of the 2016 film Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, who portray of a group of black female “computers” at NASA’s Langley Research Center. The film, which has already garnered a number of awards, cast these once unsung pioneers into the public eye…

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Rory Gilmore Will Not Get Rich From Her Memoir, And Neither Will You, published in The Financial Diet:

As I binge-watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, every so often, I checked my email to see if my article about the original series had been accepted for publication. This constant tug at my attention felt surreal, as the protagonist Rory was going through the same anxiety throughout much of the revival…

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Does the Multiracial Community Like The Loving Movie?, published in Multiracial Media:

I didn’t want to cry. I had seen the trailer for Loving, and honestly, I was afraid it was going to be a subpar movie. Partly because I thought the trailer sentimental in a Hallmark-y sort of way, and partly because I wasn’t sure Hollywood could do an interracial story justice…

That’s about it for now! You can see more of my articles by clicking on the “Portfolio” tab at the top of this page.

Love to all,

Shannon

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2016 Wasn’t as Bad as I Thought…

Like most people, I’ve been thinking a lot about 2016. While there have been tremendously heartbreaking setbacks, like Trump’s election, celebrity deaths, more personal sick days than I would have preferred, and not enough money in the bank, last night I began listing meaningful achievements and moments from the past year, and I was surprised by just how much 2016 has brought me.

  1. I interviewed Olympic swimmer Lynne Cox in my role as content coordinator for a neighborhood magazine.
  2. I got my first byline in Essence.com for an interview with teen filmmaker Gabrielle Gorman.
  3. I got a book published as a writer for hire and now have an Amazon page!
  4. I got an article accepted at The New York Times that I’m hoping pans out (I’m still holding my breath because I can’t quite believe it).
  5. I attended my first premiere in Beverly Hills, for the movie Loving.
  6. I got to hang out with Grey’s Anatomy actor Jason George.
  7. I shadowed writer and performer J. Ivy at a social media conference.
  8. A writer friend published a chapbook for me, and used it for three readings in L.A.
  9. My highest paying article rate increased by 800%.
  10. I was miraculously reconnected with my best friend from 6th grade.

This list isn’t meant to position myself as some sort of success story (and I haven’t included links for that reason). Rather, I often make myself list what I’ve been able to achieve because I’m usually too focused on what I haven’t accomplished.

It’s easy to get down on ourselves we compare our lives to others’. There will always be someone with a better resume, a better job, better health… you name it. But if we’re always focused on the carrot just out of reach, sometimes we forget those that have already come into our lives–even those carrots we never expected. One of those unexpected carrots was seeing my 2-year-old niece squeal for joy in the Santa Monica ocean. That was perhaps the best moment of the whole year.

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Take some time to look back at your 2016… What from the year brings you joy? What meaningful experiences have you had? How has your heart soared? I’d love to hear your list in the comments!

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I Grew Up in Alateen and Al-Anon

My latest article for The Fix:

Four people describe their experiences as children in the rooms of Alateen and Al-Anon and whether it helped them cope with their family member’s addiction.

My mother has attended Al-Anon religiously for as along as I can remember. She left my dad when I was three after a particularly bad physical fight, in which he slapped her around while intoxicated. We spent that night at my grandmother’s house, and the next day my mom decided we were done for good.

Read the rest here.

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When Dementia Hits Home

In two days, I board a plane to visit my 86-year-old grandma in Washington State. She’ll be 87 two days after I land. My grandma is slowly succumbing to dementia, which, thanks to the fate of her older sisters, she knew would be her fate as well. Everyone lives long in my family, at least on that side, but they begin to lose their ability to reason, remember and be fully present in the world long before they take their last breaths.

While much of me is excited to visit my grandma, I’m also scared. I’m visiting her in part because she’s slowly drifting away from us. She’s as healthy as a lion, but her mind is becoming frail.

GrandmaMy grandma was my mother for much of my life. Her home was my home for more years than it wasn’t. I watched her run a business, chat up strangers with ease, and manage a household all by herself. She taught me how to parallel park, how to downshift and upshift on windy roads, and how to value my writing just as she valued hers.

In my late teens and early 20s, I devoured her bookshelves of hard cover classics, many of which I’ve since inherited. It was she who taught me the beauty of the written word, and she who made discussing dictionary definitions part of a frequent ritual at the dinner table. Not as a way to flaunt our knowledge, but as a way to continually revel in the beauty of the English language.

My grandma always wanted to write her life story. I remember her writing group gathering around the dining room table and sharing pages from their latest works. The women around the table took their writing seriously, and I knew it was my destiny to follow suit. My grandma, through her own lived reality, presented me with a reality I could visualize. I grew up, became the head of my (single person) household, and use words to convey my deepest thoughts and emotions, and even to pay my bills.

My grandma will never get to write her life story. Her mind is too far gone now to string together memories of a long gone past. While I mourn for her inability to realize her dream, the mourning adds momentum to my own literary projects. My grandma sacrificed a lot to care for those she loved. She raised a handful of children–some her own and some who needed a structured place to stay. By the time she was through raising others, she was too far separated from her own past to put it to paper.

A year ago my grandma and I shared a hotel room at my cousin’s wedding, and we giggled like little girls as we talked into the night. That memory is so sweet that I don’t want to lose it — I don’t want it to be replaced by something more complicated and upsetting. I watched my father slowly lose control over his faculties, and I don’t want to watch my grandma lose control of hers. True, my dad was much farther gone by the time I saw him, and he only had about two weeks left, while my grandma might still have many years. But the grandma I know, the one who raised me, is hidden behind a wall of confusion and anxiety. Grandma can’t read anymore, partly due to the dementia and partly due to her macular degeneration. She needs 24-hour care and often can’t plan five minutes into the future or remember 5 hours into the past.

About ten years ago when I was living in Washington myself, my aunt called to let me know my grandma’s heart had suddenly began fluttering out of control. I sped to her retirement home and arrived as paramedics circled her bed. One gave her a shot of something to restore her heart back to a normal rhythm. As the medicine coursed its way through her, she let out what can only be described as a flutter of sensation–a verbal “whooo” at the strange feeling that had overcome her. I hardly ever cry when things happen, but instead usually remain stoic until I can process it at a later time. However, in that moment, tears suddenly welled in my eyes as my rock appeared helpless and vulnerable. It was a moment I don’t care to relive, but I know such moments are inevitable with the continued passing of time.

My aunt finds little scraps of paper with scribbles of my grandma’s thoughts about the past. All tangible evidences of her still strong desire to get her life down before it’s too late. This is all she has left of her dream… Solitary snippets that will probably never be read by anyone.

I’ll continue to pour my heart out onto the page, and to live the life my grandma created for me through her never ending passion for truth in storytelling. And on Monday I’ll give my rock a gigantic hug and revel in her presence for a full seven days. I’ll do my best to capture those moments and hold onto them for the rest of my life.