Rude Awakenings

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1. Lee Papa on Reagan’s cold, dead hands. 2. Sady Doyle on gender studies as applied to childhood pretend-play.

It seemed pretty apt of Lee Papa to open a reading last night with a story entitled “I Touched Ronald Reagan and I Have the Scars to Prove It” in the dead, dead heat of Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. Imagine a room full of book nerds happily packed into the back of the bookshop, sipping their beers that threatened to slip out of their hands due to bottle sweat, while listening to stories by the likes of Lee Papa, David Rees, Sady Doyle, Jill Filipovic, and Rachel Sklar on the origins of their liberalism. Quite awesome, actually.

1. David Rees on Get Your War On. 2. Rachel Sklar reads publicly from her iPad for the very first time.

Lee Papa opened and read sporadically through the evening from his latest book, The Rude Pundit’s Almanack, thusly introducing each speaker with a story from the collection. First up we had Sady Doyle, who revealed to us that she first became a liberal when she realized as a child that she was a girl. What she means here is that she became a liberal when she was told for the first time that girls can’t do certain things, or that they had to adhere to certain roles. Take, for instance, being told that if you played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with your friends then you had to be April. “What does April do?” Doyle asks. Get in trouble. Get captured. What about Janine Melnitz of Ghostbusters? Well, she answers the phones. She helps! I hope I wasn’t the only one, but “Teenage Mutant Ninja Wasteland” was particularly resonating to a guy who only wanted to play She-Ra when he was little.

After Jill Filipovic (of Feministe) read from “Christian Horse Camp,” political cartoonist David Rees took the stand to explain why the beloved Get Your War On needed to die. “It was exhausting and depressing,” Rees said. Imagine six years or so of chronicling the Bush administration, waiting for it to end but having no end in sight, and realizing that they’re doing the same shit day in and day out. Rees made a call to all liberal bloggers to temporarily shut down their operations (even for just a week) and see if they’d be pining to go back to business as usual. Chances are, they’d find it liberating.

Being surrounded by stories of political awakenings, I couldn’t help but think of my own. It seemed like everyone in the room followed their parents’ political beliefs during childhood simply because that’s what they knew. As a seven-year-old, I was aghast in front of my Cocoa Puffs when I learned that Bill Clinton was going to be president. There was no particular reason for this other than that it was the parental politick of the time. It’s quite a universal experience, and Lee Papa has captured that in much of The Rude Pundit’s Almanack.

–John Zuarino is a writer and editor working on the other side of publishing. He is a regular contributor to the DISH.

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