Saturday Storytime: If the Mountain Comes

An Owomoyela is a relatively new but prolific writer of short stories. This is the latest of those.

The riverbed had been parched for as long as I could remember, its dirt cracked and peeling like thick and brittle plates. You could throw them toward the bank, and watch them burst into plumes of dust. Our family drilled deep and sucked water from the earth, and it was enough to keep us wealthy, by our own, dusty standards of wealth.

Papa sent Enah away. Then he went out to the pumpyard, and I ran out after our visitor. “Wait!”

Enah turned and looked at me. “We weren’t introduced,” he said.

“I’m Lena,” I said. “Lena Wolfe. You say you can bring the river back?”

He looked up and down the riverbed. The town was clustered on the bank, and my grandfather’s home and his father’s home connected the town and our farm like the dots of an ellipsis. My family had always followed the water.

“Let me ask you something,” Enah said. “Why is it you think these people don’t seek their fortunes elsewhere?”

I shrugged. “This is home,” I said.

He nodded. “It’s their home, and it’s still possible to live here. If it is possible to live, many will stay where they’ve buried their parents, and where they’ve dug the wells with their hands, and laid the cobblestones. And besides, the sun is hot everywhere. Water is precious everywhere.” He tapped the ground with one foot. “What is the name of this river?”

The name dried up when the water did. I think Papa knew it. I think it was written on the old maps, but we didn’t use the old maps. “It doesn’t have one.”

Enah turned to look at me, and his eyes were as sharp as a carrion bird’s. “That’s sad, isn’t it?” he said. “I’ve brought waters to desert arroyos, Lena. I can make this river flow again. And when the waters flow again, your town will name it.”

He reached out to touch my cheek, and I stepped back. Ordinarily, no one would touch me — I’d have a dog, like Papa’s dogs, to dissuade anyone from coming too close. Not then, though. Papa had killed my dog that morning.

“There will be enough water to grow hyacinths here,” Enah said.

“What are hyacinths?” I asked.

Keep reading.

Saturday Storytime: If the Mountain Comes

Atheists Talk: Katherine Stewart on "The Good News Club"

Katherine Stewart is an investigative journalist and a parent. When the Good News Club came to her children’s public elementary school in 2009, Katherine put her skills to use in order to learn more about the club. She found that the club wasn’t only an after-school Bible study, but rather a program designed to indoctrinate children with Christian fundamentalism.

Katherine dug deeper and spent time exploring the efforts of Christian fundamentalist groups across the United States that use public schools as a venue to teach radical religious ideology to children.

The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children is the result of Katherine Stewart’s research. It is a in-depth, eye-opening journey through various campaigns that are being launched against public school education, all in an effort to introduce Christian doctrine into society and weaken the wall of church-state separation.

Join Atheists Talk this Sunday as we interview Katherine Stewart about her research. We’ll discuss with her about how we as a society have allowed groups like The Good News Club to get so far so fast, and what we can do in response.

Related Links

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Atheists Talk: Katherine Stewart on "The Good News Club"


It’s always fascinating to watch a tale be retold and see what gets left out. It says almost as much about the storyteller as what is left in.

In the case of the infamous elevator, sometimes all that has been left in is the coffee. Even the elevator itself is sometimes elided. The hours of opportunity for a single word of conversation generally disappear. Certainly all the hours of discussion of being tired of being hit on are gone. So is the expressed desire for sleep. That one never makes it into the story.

If it is acknowledged that we’ve been discussing the need for anti-harassment policies the egregious nature of the events that prompted the call are somehow missing. We haven’t educated thousands of people about the difference between flirting and harassment. We haven’t explicitly recognized that other mores prevail in other circumstances. We haven’t, many of us, been explicitly sex-positive for years.

When we’re talking about the propositioned speaker, the card contains no nakedness. The clearly stated professional nature of the event is overwritten by expectations of socializing. The lack of interaction prior to the proposition is replaced with friendly conversation. The praise the speaker had for the event and its organizers has somehow become condemnation.

On the topic of the written harassment report, everything is disappeared but the lack of in-hand upskirt photos. The following, the invasions of personal space, the outspoken sexism–they’re gone. So is every instance of “No” and “Stop” and “Get away from me”. It’s as though they never happened. Even the point of discussing the incident in the first place becomes invisible.

It would say one thing if these details were elided because they were considered unimportant. Continue reading “Elisions”


Why #IDidNotReport

All this lack of sleep. All this having to continually focus on a single topic to keep it on track. All the sneers. All the yelling. And what finally makes me just throw my hands up and sit down and cry? [Warning: There’s a fair chance I’m about to do the same to you.]


look it’s all ok for people to say she can decide what she wants to do with the threats. NO IT IS NOT! Continue reading “Why #IDidNotReport”

Why #IDidNotReport

What Is a Troll?

I have a panel coming up at SkepchickCon/CONvergence talking about dealing with trolls online. Before we can deal with the creatures, however, we have to be able to recognize them. We have to make sure we’re talking about the same classes of behavior that we want to circumvent or counter or exclude.

Lots of different people have somewhat different ideas as to what a troll is. I have some very strong ideas on the subject myself, but I want to be prepared to deal with others.

So tell me, sourceable crowd, how do you determine who is and who is not a troll?

What Is a Troll?

How It Is Pronounced

There is an excellent chance you’ve already seen this video elsewhere on FreethoughtBlogs. I post it here as well, because you may not have seen it but still want to know how a bunch of us here talk about this when we get together. There is also one thing I’d like to draw your attention to.

A number of people have been mispronouncing my name lately on the radio and in Google+ hangouts and the like. They’ve been doing this despite me doing a radio show on which I introduce myself approximately every other week.

Now, I’m used to this. People who hear the radio show regularly still mispronounce my name. Still, if you want to know how it’s done, let this discussion be your guide.

Just make sure you pay attention to how I pronounce it, not how that Meyers guy does.

How It Is Pronounced

An Organizational Perspective

There has been some conversation in the comments of yesterday’s post that is relevant, expert, and unique in my experience of the discussion around D.J.’s handling of harassment reports at TAM. I am, therefore, promoting it to its own post.

psanity commented:

TAM is so busy harming itself, nobody else can get a scratch in.

I want to apologize for going off on what seems to be a tangent, but I think there are structural, foundational issues here that lie beneath all this other ugly stuff – things we need to be concerned about as a growing movement with organizations that are important to the movement’s health and welfare. There are more reasons than the ones obvious to the harassment/policy discussion to be very glad, relieved, that so many groups are addressing this particular issue relatively sensibly. I’m not much of a commenter on the blogs, but I am sorely tried.

(Caution: jargon-riddled somewhat meta rant ahead) Continue reading “An Organizational Perspective”

An Organizational Perspective